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Wednesday 5 January 2011 | Published in Regional


Cook Islands swimmer Tepaia Payne is on a mission to qualify to represent the country at the New Caledonia Pacific Games later this year and so far he’s on the right track.

Payne, who is currently living in Brunei with his family, and Australian-based Cook Islands swimmer Celeste Brown set new personal best swim times at the World Short Course Swim Championships in Dubai in December.

The short course championship sees athletes compete in the shorter 25m length pools instead of the Olympic 50m length pools.

The 17-year-old has been swimming for four years but in 2010, he represented the country at four events in New Caledonia, Samoa, Singapore and Dubai.

Petero Okotai, the country’s only Olympic swimmer who accompanied Payne and Brown to the Dubai meet, says that both Payne and Brown have improved their swim times at every event and are two of the top 10 swimmers in the Pacific region.

This bodes well for the swimming duo’s chances of qualifying for the Pacific Games and the 2012 London Olympics.

In Dubai – Payne competed in five races – the 50, 100 and 200m freestyle races, 50m butterfly and the 100m medley.

Payne says his proudest result from his races in Dubai was shaving one second off his 100m freestyle race where he clocked a credible time of 56.9 seconds.

He also achieved credible times in his other race including 2 minutes and 7 seconds in the 200m freestyle, 25.8 seconds in the 50m freestyle and 28.3 seconds in his 50m butterfly race.

But the road to representing the country at the Pacific and Olympic Games is no easy ride as one of the CISNOC high performance qualification criteria is for athletes or teams to be top three in the region.

But Okotai is confident that the young swimmers have what it takes not only to qualify for the Pacific and Olympic Games – but also to win medals.

Payne was on the island for a short break over the festive season before returning to Brunei over the New Year’s weekend.

Payne will continue to train with the Brunei national swimming squad to prepare for the long course swimming championships in Shanghai in July 2011.