Students at Kavanagh College watched on nervously but proudly today as teenage swimming sensation Erika Fairweather took to the starting blocks in the 400m freestyle final.
Fairweather qualified fourth for the final, following her swim in yesterday’s heat where she broke Lauren Boyle’s New Zealand record with a time of 4min 02.28s.
The 17-year-old is the youngest Kiwi at the games, and is competing against some of the world’s best - including five-time Olympic gold medallist Kathleen Ledecky, and Australian Ariarne Titmus, who won today’s final.
“She's there with her top idols she's been looking up to them for ages, she's been snapchatting us like oh my God they're here,” Fairweather’s friend Geena Mouat said.
Today, students at Kavanagh College packed the hall to watch the race.
“We are just so proud of her, the energy in the room today - it's exactly what it was like last night even though we couldn't all be together, everyone was online, just absolutely insane, all the love that everybody has for her and just… oh I can't even begin to explain how excited we are for her,” Mouat said.
Principal Kate Nicholson works closely with Fairweather, who is head girl, and a top student at Kavanagh.
“She's just incredibly driven, very self-contained, she just gets on with it and she's a great role model to so many of our teenagers these days who feel that there are barriers in front of them, but actually it's what you do with it,” she said.
Fairweather isn’t the only swimming talent to come out of the Dunedin school.
Also in the Olympic team is Carina Doyle, an ex-Kavanagh student.
Both Fairweather and Doyle are in the 4x200m freestyle relay together.
“Well I think being quite close to Moana Pool, there's no excuse to skip training probably,” Nicholson said.
Although Fairweather failed to secure a podium spot today, her friends and fellow students say despite the result, they’re still proud of her efforts.
”She's in Tokyo at the Olympics, that's the most incredible thing you could do especially at her age,” Mouat said.
“We're all so proud of her, I just have nothing but that to say, she's just incredible.”
Fairweather doesn’t have long to rest, she’s back in the pool for her 200m freestyle heat later tonight.