Tokyo Olympics: Clareburt family 'incredibly proud' of son Lewis after Olympic swimming heartbreak

Walking out to his first final - at his first Olympics - Kiwi swimmer Lewis Clareburt carried the weight and hopes of a nation.

A few hundred fans gathered at Auckland's fanzone applauded with excitement, while there were nerves at the Clareburt family home in Wellington, where 40 friends and family joined sisters and parents to watch the race.

As the 22-year-old left the starting blocks, there was silence at home, but cheers in Auckland, which only grew louder, as the Kiwi took the lead at the halfway mark.

The tension was palpable, as Clareburt looked to claim New Zealand's first Olympic swimming medal in 25 years.

In second place at the final turn, history looked on, but the last 50 metres were brutal and he slipped to seventh. 

Clareburt's reaction was typically Kiwi.

"Bugger," he texted back home.

"I could tell I was there with the guys in the last 100 metres," Clareburt says.

"I could see I was in the mix, but then I could also see everyone passing me in the last 50 metres... gutted."

Still proud, the Clareburt family toasted his success.

"Absolutely stoked for him," dad David tells Newshub. "Proud as punch. 

“His mum, his sisters and his whole family are absolutely rapt for him."

The sentiment was echoed in Auckland, with many fans praising their fellow Kiwi for 350m of near-perfect swimming.

"He did extraordinarily well," says one. 

"What an effort, good one lad," says another.

While he hasn’t walked away with a medal, Clareburt’s star is firmly on the rise.

He's in the pool again in the 200m individual medley next week and Paris 2024 is just three years away.