Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Hyogo Prefecture Masters Swimming Championships in Kobe City

Last year, Swimming NZ signed a ‘friendship agreement’ with Kobe City in Japan. As part of this relationship, Kobe City has informed Swimming NZ that it would like to provide NZD$10,000 to enable four (4) NZ Masters swimmers to attend the 2019 Hyogo Prefecture Masters Swimming Championships in Kobe City on Sunday 4 August. The $10,000 was split four ways to help cover flights, accommodation and race entries.

NZMS selected Oli Lusk from Tasman Gold Masters Nelson, Debbie Hambly from Raumati Masters, Steve Prescott from Dunedin Masters and Chris Bishop from Waitakere Masters, to attend the Swimming Championships.

Read what Oli, Deb and Christopher had to say about the Championship:

"Firstly, I want to say a massive thank you to Kazuko Tapper, our Cultural Liaison Officer, for sorting us out with everything we needed and being so quick to help whenever we had questions. The trip couldn't have gone smoother without her!
Also, I just wanted to say how blown away we all were with the hospitality shown to us by Mr Miyazaki and the rest of the team. They made us feel so welcome in their country! The swimming competition itself was such a lot of fun and so well run (I wish it could have been longer than just one day!). We were really well looked after, and we had three fantastic English-speaking students to help us get to our events on time and answer any questions we might have. They even bought us all lunch to keep us going during the day! One thing I particularly liked was the tradition of bowing to the officials and crowd before and after racing! I know we all want to come back in 2021!
The dinner afterwards was fantastic! We went to a Chinese restaurant near the pool, where we got to meet some of the officials from the competition. Again, the hospitality was incredible.

Outside of the swimming, having 3 full days to explore Kobe and Kyoto (via the amazing bullet train!) was fantastic! I really enjoyed getting immersed in a culture quite different to ours in NZ. We covered some serious distance on foot and I was absolutely knackered by the end (largely due to the heat!).

Lastly I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed getting to know Chris, Steve and Deb. They are a great bunch of people and I hope to keep in contact with them. This whole experience has really motivated me to keep up my training and set new goals! I've got to be fighting fit for 2021 now 😉
Oli Lusk

"The trip to Japan was absolutely amazing., and an experience that i will remember for a very long time. The four of us from New Zealand who had not met before have made lasting friendships , and of course the way Kaz Tapper took care of everything was simply outstanding.

The Swim Meet was run as you would expect like clock work, and i believe there was close to 600 competitors on the day. Our little team of four did exceptionally well , with Oli, and Deb, both picking up GOLDS.

In order to actually get to the starting blocks, you had to go via a four tiered process with officials checking and identifying swimmers along the way. The officials couldnt have done any more for us on the day, which is a great advert for 2021, and which all four of us have identified as a must do.

We stayed at The Pearl City Harbour Hotel , which was probably a 10 to 15 minute walk from the pool , and in a very quite part of the city. During our time we took the opportunity to explore Kobe , and also visited Kyoto.

The temp, was in the high thirties most days, and unusually hot, so we certainly got through a large quantities of water and energy type drinks."
Finally I would like to thank Swimming NZ for this opportunity which i feel we were all privileged to experience. I am certianly keen to participate in many more competitions."
 Christopher Bishop

"I arrived in Kobe by bullet train taking in the famed Mount Fuji on the way thanks to the great value 7 day JR pass. I felt like a VIP with my name on a placard to help me find our host. Kazuko Topper, our Swim NZ contact was our virtual real life guardian angel – not that we needed any protection – Japan is super safe. When I needed to withdraw cash and get some dinner my first night, she would send route maps faster than I could look them up on my goggle maps.

I didn’t need to look far to find either food or travellers provisions at any 7-11, which were dotted seemingly everywhere. With a high population and excellent transport infrastructure the food was always super fresh. For between $5 and $7 NZD I could buy any number of ready to eat meals, which would re-heat on the spot.

The hotel’s massive buffet breakfast included food from at least 5 different cultures, in addition to a

Western offering. I discovered that soup and seaweed and salad for breakfast is awesome. I found myself constantly taking photographs of food, real or plastic! We took in the miraculous vertical positions of divine looking deserts and huge varieties of food in storefronts. Plastic food is a fine art in Japan so one is easily tempted! Apparently Kobe is the 2nd best place in Japan for desserts (not to mention the famous Steaks).
While exploring, we took breaks in the local cafes. Ice-creams were everywhere and so were 2L bottles of a popular electrolyte drink called ‘Sweat.’ I think the drink would need a rebranding in NZ, but when the weather app showed the temp “feeling like 39 degrees” our English speaking teammates ignored the name and just kept hydrated! We took a subway, bus and tram to reach Rokko Mountain’s spectacular harbour views of and more cold deserts and drinks.

The night before the meet we took in a reconnaissance swim, purchasing tickets from a vending machine and stored our gear in the free lockable units, which are literally at every tourist attraction and train station in Japan. We had the 50-meter ten lane pool to share with one or two others!

For dinner we spotted an Ikea store not far from the hotel, and given we couldn’t bring any furniture home I convinced the others we could at least have a hearty meal in cheerful cafeteria- style restaurant.

The next morning we arrived at the giant pool complex after a ten minute walk. The meet programme was entirely in Japanese except for the event numbers, participant ages and our names! We were able to follow the meet programme without help as the times were accurate.

We were warmly welcomed with cheers by the crowd thanks to the message on the huge digital board. We had no idea the level of competition other than that there were 600 entries. The meet was brilliantly organised with a waiting area where you could stretch until your heat was called followed by 5 martially mats for stretching. Everyone was super friendly even if they couldn’t speak English and some could speak other shared languages (French) so we had lots of great exchanges and trading of swim gear.

My first race was going to be my best shot as it was the longest race (200IM). I had seen some of my competitors’ times from the heat before and I had a few more in my heat. My team-mates captured my name and my (slowest of all by a second) reaction time off the adjustable starting blocks. However, I caught up took first. In my other events (100 Fly and 100 Free) I came in 2nd place.

Later, in foyer area I noted each team had basketfuls of certificates. I found beautiful certificates, one with a summary of my 3 races including splits, and another gilded in gold print with beautiful Japanese calligraphy. When I retrieved the second one, the volunteers made a big deal brought out a beautifully packed medal. Kazuko later messaged that I had also achieved a meet record. However, when I expressed my surprise she did note that this meet had not been going for very long.

That evening our hosts walked us to another lovely restaurant with a beautiful buffet dinner complete with a variety of local desserts. We had another medal and certificate presentation with officials from the Kobe Swimming office.

It was a whirlwind few days in Kobe that had the perfect balance between sightseeing, trying local food, meeting new people and swimming!"

Deborah Hambly

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