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Talbot Faces Stern Test At Student Games


Talbot Faces Stern Test At Student Games

Champion New Zealand backstroker Scott Talbot wants more than a pass mark when he swims at the World Student Games in Daegu, South Korea this month.

As New Zealand's best medal prospect, Talbot is the favourite to carry the flag at the opening ceremony on August 21. And if you think the World Student Games are a festival of late nights and partying with a bit of sport on the side, think again. For swimmers, only the Olympics and the World Championships rate higher in the competition stakes.

"It's a really classy meet and a great opportunity for New Zealand athletes to get experience on the world stage and for us to show the public what we can do," he says. The winter nationals 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke champion, Talbot has been a member of New Zealand's swimming elite since he went to the World Championships in 1999 and the Sydney Olympics the following year. His efforts have seen him elevated into the New Zealand Academy of Sport as a carded athlete. As the high performance unit of SPARC (Sport and Recreation New Zealand), the Academy assists elite athletes in performing at the highest level.

Talbot, 22, who trains at the Millennium Centre on Auckland's North Shore, has used many of the on site services provided by the Academy. He has had medical and sports science support, and tapped into the expertise of academic, career and financial advisors. His economic studies through Massey University have been financially supported by a Prime Minister's study scholarship, which pays fees and some living expenses.

"The scholarship has really lightened the financial stress. Being able to study while I swim is important to me. It provides a bit of balance - and I think I swim better because I've got that. I've had a lot of help through all the services the Academy provides and I'm really grateful for it."

Talbot comes from impeccable swimming stock: his father Don Talbot is a former Australian swim coach; his mother Jan Cameron is a former Australian Olympic silver medallist, and the current New Zealand swim coach.

Talbot moved to New Zealand as a nine-year-old and had his first success in the pool months later. As a boy he loved all sports, at one stage playing nine sports in a single year, but at 15 he opted to give everything to swimming.

"I chose swimming because most of my friends were in the swim team. It was really social back then. Now I'm the only one left," he says, admitting the long lonely hours in the pool can be tough. "You have to work through it. Basically, I'm still swimming because I haven't gone as far as I want to go."

Talbot's immediate goals include a medal at the Student Games, which would make him only the second New Zealand athlete - after swimmer Anthony Mosse - to medal at the event. Talbot's best chance probably lies in the 100m backstroke, and he's after New Zealand records in both the 50 and 100m events.

The World Student Games are known internationally as the Universiade, a combination of the terms "University" and "Olympiad". The Summer Universiade is held every two years. Some 7,000 student athletes aged 17-28 years, from more than 170 nations, will compete in 13 sports. World records are regularly broken at the event, which has uncovered some great talents including Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci and American stars Larry Bird (basketball), Matt Biondi (swimming) and Greg Louganis (diving).

Sixty New Zealand athletes have qualified to compete in athletics, swimming, fencing, women's soccer and women's volleyball. Vice-president of University Sport New Zealand and professional rowing coach Glen Sinclair will head the team, while the New Zealand Academy of Sport's David Pearce is assistant Chef de Mission.

David Pearce says "the Student Games offer New Zealand's elite student athletes a great chance to prepare and set themselves up for competing at future international events."

"You have an Olympic-type atmosphere and the calibre of competition is extremely high. If our athletes can use the experience well, it will put them a step ahead for future Olympic and Commonwealth Games," he says. "Unlike other countries, New Zealand athletes see very few opportunities to compete in high quality multi-sport competitions", says Pearce.

New Zealand Academy of Sport general manager Katie Sadleir says "prestigious events like the World Student Games are key to filling this important gap in training and competition. With nearly half the team being New Zealand Academy of Sport carded athletes we look forward to seeing the results," she says.

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