The man trying to fulfil the legacy of New Zealand’s best swimming coach is making waves in Queenstown this week.
Ukrainian Gennadiy Labara is head coach of the Otago Swim Coaching Academy – formed to continue the work of the late Duncan Laing, the Dunedin legend of the sport who coached swimmer Danyon Loader to double Olympic glory in 1996.
Labara has brought his 14-strong squad to the resort for an intensive “boot camp”-style training session this week in the lead up to Queenstown Swim Club’s Early Bird swim meet on Saturday.
Labara’s grooming the 14 swimmers, aged 13-25, to become serious Olympic hopefuls – including national breaststroke champ Katie Kenneally.
Also in the squad is Gibbston teen Frances Newbold, 16, who goes to boarding school in Dunedin. “I came to Dunedin to make more Olympic champions,” Labara says.
Laing, who lost his battle with cancer last September, gave Labara his blessing when he became OSCA head coach two years ago.
“He told me he was happy with me.
He was the best swimming coach in NZ and I’m really pleased to have worked with him.”
Like Laing, Labara’s taskmaster coaching style is demanding of his proteges.
“I’m more than tough,” he admits.
The squad’s been training at Alpine Aqualand for six hours each day before entering the local swim meet this weekend.
The meet is QSC’s biggest of the season – attracting more than 180 athletes from the lower South Island – and it acts as a fundraiser for local swimmers.
QSC head coach Frank Wylie says it gives local swimmers an opportunity to watch some of NZ’s best.
“They’ll provide some really good competition this weekend.”