Byron does the double
NATIONAL pride was on the line as NSW's most gifted Under 18 Pool Rescue athletes battled it out against New Zealand's best surf lifesavers at the 2016 New Zealand Pool Championships.
It was a double celebration for Byron Bay with Ela Heiniger as head coach and Gabrielle Kay both winning gold medals.
Kay also won two bronze medals in individual competition.
The strong contingent competed against surf clubs from New Zealand and although it was the hosts who claimed overall bragging rights, the young blues led by Keeley Booth (Avoca Beach) and Matthew Sperring (Warilla-Barrack Point) returned from the tour with an astonishing 23 medals in their kit bag.
"It's so exciting to see how much talent there is in NSW and I believe it's one of the youngest teams we've had touring in some time,” Heiniger said.
"Some of the skills you develop in pool rescue can certainly improve your skills in the ocean.”
Over the three days of competition the team finished with nine gold medals, seven silver and seven bronze medals - an impressive haul from a team that is one of the youngest to travel to New Zealand in recent memory.
Fifteen-year-old Anthea Warne from Cudgen Headland had a competition to remember with her three gold medals coming in the Under-19 Female 200 Super Lifesaver, Under-15 Female 100 Manikin Tow with Fins and Under-19 Female 4x50m Medley.
Lone South Coast representative, Matthew Sperring from Warilla-Barrack Point went agonisingly close to taking gold in a number of races. He finished his tour with seven medals (one gold, four silver and two bronze).
Talented Manly surf lifesaver, Emily Doyle also showed her skills in the pool with a mighty effort to achieve two gold and two bronze medals during the competition.
Surf Life Saving NSW Sports Manager Rob Pidgeon felt it was a highly successful tour.
"I was absolutely delighted to see these results from our young pool rescue athletes,” he said.
"A key aim of this tour is to give these young surf lifesavers exposure to international competition and to help their development. It's a huge challenge taking on the New Zealanders on their turf as they produce some fantastic athletes.”