Swimming/Diving

Hutchins qualifies for New Zealand Olympic team

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TORONTO – With a pair of All-America accolades, a Big Ten Swimmer of the Year honor and three school records already under his belt this season, Matt Hutchins of the Wisconsin men’s swimming team was still set on chasing down another dream.

The junior did just that, officially securing himself a spot on the New Zealand national team and the right to represent his country at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro with his performance in the 400-meter freestyle at the 2016 Canadian Olympic Trials in Toronto on Thursday.

A native of Christchurch, New Zealand, the Badgers standout swam the fastest time during morning preliminaries of the event, finishing in an impressive 3 minutes, 49.84 seconds. That time met the FINA “A” cut of 3:50.44 necessary for Olympics qualifying consideration.

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Thumbnail Photo is Courtesy of Wisconsin Athletics

He went on to win the B Final of the event Thursday evening in 3:50.12, which was the second-fastest time recorded in finals.

Hutchins is competing in the Canadian trials because last month’s NCAA championships were scheduled concurrently with New Zealand’s Olympic qualifying competition. The nations worked out an agreement allowing New Zealand swimmers competing collegiately in U.S. to use the Canadian event as an alternative qualifying event.

“The last couple of years this has become more and more of a realistic goal for me. Today, it all kind of happened at once and actually became a reality,” Hutchins said. “It hasn’t fully sunk in yet, but I’m sure once I get back to Madison and take a step back and look at it I’ll appreciate this even more. It’s obviously a huge honor to me to represent my country and something that is very special to me.”

Hutchins becomes the first Wisconsin swimmer to compete at the Olympics since 2004 when Carly Piper represented the United States and Adam Mania competed for Poland. Piper won a gold medal for the U.S. in the 800-meter freestyle relay at the Games in Athens.

Hutchins is the 11th Olympian in the history of UW’s swimming program.

“We’re really proud of Matt. He’s put in the work and no one works harder. He’s getting everything that he deserves,” Wisconsin head coach Whitney Hite said. “Our goal here at Wisconsin is to position our athletes to be ready for not only the Big Ten championships and the NCAA championships, but ultimately to be able to represent their country. For Matt to be able to do this is really special for him and it’s certainly great for our program.

“The Olympics is our Super Bowl, so to speak, so it’s an honor for him. For me personally, too, it’s an honor to be a part of it.”

Hutchins also swam in the 200-meter freestyle on Tuesday and finished fifth in the B Final with a time of 1:50.84.

He is scheduled to swim in the 1500-meter freestyle on Saturday. Hutchins is ranked ninth overall and second for New Zealand in the event with a time of 15:32.06.

This season, Hutchins became the first male Big Ten Swimmer of the Year in Wisconsin program history. He is the first Badger to win the award on either the men’s or women’s side since Maggie Meyer in 2011.

At this year’s NCAA championships, Hutchins earned top-six finishes in two individual events. He was third in the 1650-yard freestyle (14:33.09) and also secured a sixth-place finish in the 500-yard freestyle (4:13.35). Both times were school records.

Hutchins recorded a trio of top-three finishes at the Big Ten championships. He finished second in both the 500 and 1650 freestyle events, while also contributing to UW’s third-place finish in the 800 freestyle relay.

A second-team All-Big Ten honoree, Hutchins was a two-time Big Ten Swimmer of the Week this season. He became a Big Ten champion last season when he claimed an individual title in the 500-yard freestyle.

 


 

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