Swimming: Kiwi teen Erika Fairweather looks to step up at world championships as Paris Olympics approach

Erika Fairweather.
Erika Fairweather. Photo credit: Supplied

Plenty of expectation surrounds the New Zealand swim team competing at this month's world championships in Japan.

While double Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lewis Clareburt headlines the group, arguably the most pressure is on Erika Fairweather, 19, as she looks to create history.

Last time Clareburt flew to Japan, the world was a far different place, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The excitement just keeps building," he told Newshub. "I'm super pumped.

"It's like a weird year, this is a lull. Next year's the most important one, so this is like a test where the competition is at, but I know it's going to be really fast."

Clareburt is among a 15-strong group bound for Fukuoka and after a disappointing outing at last year's worlds in Hungary... he's hungry.

While Clareburt is opting for food, Fairweather is finding fuel in other ways.

"We've got 40 UP&GOs," she said. "They're not only for me though, they're spread between a few of us."

That's not all of the additional baggage she is hauling with her. As she looks to become just the fifth-ever woman to go sub-four minutes in the 400 metres freestyle, Fairweather knows far more eyes are now on her.

"I'm going into this and people are expecting things," she added. "They know who I am, I'm a bit of a big dog now, which is so cool.

"Who'd have thought?"

As if there wasn't enough pressure on her, Fairweather has added the 800 metres to her to-do list.

"I dropped it before Tokyo, because I wanted to focus on qualifying for the 400m. I think now's the right time to bring it back in. 

"There's a window of opportunity there."

As they wave goodbye to New Zealand, a wave of expectation now greets them.

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