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Hicks to swim for New Zealand

BY EVELYN LAU | MAY 12, 2009 7:27 AM

Verity Hicks won’t spend her summer working a job or internship. Instead, she’ll be in Serbia, representing her country, New Zealand.

The sophomore AquaHawk will compete in the World University Games, also known as Summer Universiade, in Belgrade, Serbia, on July 8-11.

For Hicks, the opportunity to represent her country is a great honor.

“I’m really excited about it,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a really awesome meet. It’ll be a really good experience to get back up there in New Zealand and get my name out there.”

The competition is held every other year and brings together some of the best student-athletes in the world. The setup is similar to that of the Olympics, but there are only 10 mandatory sports, including three optional sports chosen by the host country.

Iowa head coach Marc Long believes the experience will be satisfying for Hicks.

“I think for her, it’s just rewarding to go back home,” he said. “I feel she’s proud to be swimming in the U.S. but can still go back and represent her country. She seems very exciting about it, and we are as well.”

Hicks plans to travel on May 17 back to New Zealand, where she’ll then have seven weeks at home to train full-time before leaving for Belgrade. She looks to compete in the 200 and 400 freestyles with a possibility of also swimming in the 800 freestyle. She’ll be reunited with New Zealand head coach, Jan Cameron, for whom Hicks has swum before.

Participating in this large-scale event will help Hicks in the long run, Long believes.

“The more experiences you can get in different types of competitions, it’s going to help us,” he said. “Getting her to compete during the summer in really advanced competition, it’s really going to pay dividends next year in the Big Ten season and hopefully in the NCAAs.”

After arriving in Iowa in January 2008, Hicks was thrown into the fire right away as a competitor in the middle of the AquaHawks’ season. However, with a full season finally under her belt, Long has seen the strides she has made as a swimmer.

“This year was great because she could start out with the team in the fall,” Long said. “She’s really opened up and developed as a competitor in our format but also as a leader, and voted captain by the team. We’re looking for great things out of her in the next couple of years.”

Hicks also believes that swimming at Iowa has been a good outlet for her competitive nature.

“I think it’s help me a lot; it’s help me grow as a swimmer,” she said. “College swimming in the States is so different from anywhere else. There’s 50 to 60 of us on the team, men and women, and we’re all so close. It’s good to have that kind of competition within the team, within the practice setting to train against.”

This isn’t Hicks’ first time in the international limelight. Last year, she swam in the New Zealand Olympic trials and finished fifth in the 400 and 800 freestyle, eighth in the 200 freestyle, and 12th in the 100 freestyle.

However, even with that experience, she still finds her nerves get the best of her.

“[I’m] definitely nervous, definitely getting up there every time wearing the silver fern, which is the New Zealand sporting symbol, it’s always a little nerve-racking,” she said. “But [I’m] also proud to be wearing it as well.”


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