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The Dilemma Facing Baumann's Daughter

Sep 12, 2012  - Craig Lord

When dad happens to be Alex Baumann, one of the greats of medley swimming, and you happen to surpass a national record in the midst of a new life half way round the world from your native Canada, the choice of "what next" is a particularly difficult one. 

Tabitha Baumann, 17, claimed the New Zealand 1500m short-course freestyle crown at the Auckland winter championships last week with an impressive 16:09.14, 50secs clear of the field and inside the 16:20.47 Kiwi mark held by Lauren Boyle.

Now she must decide: does she miss three weeks of school to return to Canada for trials that may take her to the FINA World S/C Championships in Turkey this December, or does she switch allegiance to the nation of her residence. 

Such questions have long been part of family discussion. Born in Australia to a Czech father, Baumann senior represented Canada on his way to Olympic 200m and 400m medley gold in 1984, while his wife swam for Australia. Alex Baumann led the Canadian Road to Excellence programme from January 2007 until last year, when he took up the role of chief executive at High Performance Sport New Zealand.

Tabitha, who first raced at 12 and went on to earn a place in the Canadian team for the Junior World Championships, tells the New Zealand Herald: "I still have strong ties with Canada. But to swim for Canada at the world short course championships I would have to go back there and swim their trials. But,'' she admitted, ``the longer I am here the more I'm liking New Zealand. It will be a huge call but one I will have to talk over with my parents and my coach before making a final decision."

Her dad is committed to staying in NZ until at least 2016 "and beyond", and says of his daughter's dilemma - at a time when she has another priority in life - education at Rangitoto College: "In the end it is up to her. It is something we have been talking about. The challenge would be in going back for the Canadian trials. That would mean three weeks out of school and while they have been very accommodating, it would not be in her best interests."