Kingscliff swimmer heads for Rome

MATTHEW Abood is the toast of Kingscliff after blasting his way into the Australian swimming team to contest the world championships in Rome in July.

Abood, a former Kingscliff Swimming Club junior, earned his second berth on the Australian team after claiming the prestigious 50m freestyle spot, downing Eamon Sullivan at the national titles and world championship trials in Sydney on Sunday night.

After setting a personal best time in the 100m free of 49 seconds flat - a full second faster then he had ever swum before - to grab fourth place and earn his place in the Australian relay team, Abood reached deep for a dynamic 21.93 second performance to beat world record-holder Sullivan in the 50m.

The 22-year-old Abood beat Sullivan by just three-hundredths of a second - but it was enough.

While much of the attention focused on Sullivan being beaten, Abood was also coming to terms with the media's new-found interest in him.

Yesterday delighted Kingscliff swim coach Lea Speechley said Abood's performance had created plenty of excitement at the club.

“I have been texting him and he said there was plenty of media hype around his performance, which would be a bit unusual for him since he is such a humble type of guy,” Speechley said.

“We are very proud of him. He started out swimming here as a six-year-old and stayed with the club through his teens before heading to Sydney to swim with the best not so long ago.”

Abood joined Sullivan's squad when coach Grant Stoelwinder moved from Perth to Sydney last October to join the NSW Institute of Sport.

Speechley, who trained Abood through his “formative years” from the age of eight to 16, says his place on the Australian team is thoroughly deserved.

“Even at a young age we knew he had the potential within him and it was a case of waiting for the skinny and lanky teenager to grow into his body,” Speechley said.

“When it comes to training, Matthew is very intense and focused, and this is a reward not just for him but also his family, who have been extremely supportive of him in his swimming career.”

And Matthew may not be the only Abood to make a mark on Australian swimming, with younger brother Andrew also showing plenty of potential.

He also trains at Kingscliff under the guidance of Speechley, who said it was a long-term plan to try and get both brothers on the Australian swim team.

“There's another very supportive person in Matthew's career, his girlfriend Hayley White who also trains with us at Kingscliff,” Speechley said.

“She has recently returned to serious training and is completely understanding of the pressures that Matthew has gone through.

“He has plenty of support up here on the Tweed and we can't wait to congratulate him when he comes home.”

Abood is one of 10 first-timers in the 41-person squad which will head to Rome. Australian head coach Alan Thompson is hoping the new faces will prove a cure for the post-Olympic blues, with the year after the Games notorious for the big guns of the sport struggling to come out firing.

There's no doubt Abood will be carrying not only his nation's hopes but also the best wishes of the Tweed with him.

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