Tag Archives: Swimming

ARMTour in Ntaria

What a brilliant week! I have just had a magical experience, and feel so grateful for the opportunity.

I spent this past week out as an athlete role model on the ARMTours trip to the Northern Territory. It’s a programme run by NASCA (National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy) and it involves sending athletes out into Aboriginal communities to serve as role models for the students.

Our job was to support the students in their education during school hours, and engage actively with them through sport afterschool. It was fabulous! I visited Ntaria and was lucky enough to go on a school excursion with a group of students on the first day. We had the opportunity to learn about bush medicine and bush tucker.  Lilly, our teacher for the day, brewed us up some drinking medicine, and it certainly was potent! It was specifically for combating flu, and I reckon I’ll give it a go next time I feel the early signs of a flu (and maybe even a cold?).

I spent a lot of the next few days with the littlies – the pre-school and transition kids. What a great way to spend the day! Play-doh, colouring, singing songs and piecing puzzles together. I simply fell in love with every student in the class, especially when they shared their big smiles whilst playing in the sand pit and kicking a soccer ball around during recess!

The evening of the second night in community the Ntaria ARMTours team headed out to Palm Valley for a gorgeous camp out in the national park. The NT is super green right now after all the rain, with an interesting consequence of a mouse plague! Needless to say I was far happier sleeping in a swag with a mossy net built in. Kept those little critters out of my bedding!

The next day was spent with some of the older students in a cooking class, and then doing a big of design with students during their computers class. That afternoon the Ntaria Roos (as we – the ARMTours team in Ntaria – decided to name ourselves) cooked up a storm and helped the school provide an all community BBQ (interesting job cooking meat for a vego!).  We later gave out awards for the students who had been outstanding in their attention in class, teamwork, attendance, or leadership.

The Ntaria trip was wrapped up with a fantastic session swimming with about 60-70 of the students at the Alice Springs swimming pool, and having an all round brilliant time.

The Ntaria team then met up with the other ARMTours team members who had gone to different communities for a group camp out and BBQ. It was a fabulous opportunity to share stories, learn from the other community experiences, and sleep out under the beautiful NT stars.

I can’t wait for the next opportunity to head out with the ARMTours team!

If you’re curious about the programme, or about NASCA, check out www.nasca.com.au.

 

Aurukun, A Second Visit

There is something truly magical about Aurukun, Qld. The dusty red earth, the magical and ancient bush, the wild river, and the kind hearted people: it certainly holds a special place in my heart.

Aurukun has also had a profound affect on me. The two occasions that I’ve had the opportunity to visit and spend time in community I’ve felt myself connect with my soul’s energy, shake off the noise and distraction of day-to-day life, and feel a beautiful stillness and clarity within myself. It’s a gift I am grateful to receive from Aurukun, and I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to offer gifts in return – inspiring local kids about the Olympics, playing in a swimming hole with them (equally a gift for me – if not more so!), and just being friendly and chatting with people while walking through town.

That’s not to say that Aurukun doesn’t have its issues. There is significant domestic violence, nowhere near enough housing, a severe lack of employment opportunities and self-empowerment, drugs and alcohol are highly problematic even though it’s a “dry community”, and most nights packs of camp dogs can be heard fighting or howling. It’s a strange and saddening dichotomy, which never fails to truly inspire me to the kindness and strength of the human spirit given that genuine acts of kindness occur under such challenging and often desperate circumstances.

It’s this beauty of the human spirit faced with such unnecessarydisempowerment and challenge that has made me passionately want to work within the field of Indigenous rights in Australia, and to use my skills and experience to help to provide opportunities that may otherwise be unavailable.

Next week I’m off to Ntaria in the Northern Territory with the ARMTours programme (Athletes as Role Models). It’s a programme run by NASCA (the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy). I’ll have the opportunity to spend about a week in community working within a team of role models, and engaging with young people in community through education, sport, and other activities. I’m really excited!

But for now, one thing I really want to say is thank you to my lovely friend Gen. It’s through her generosity and hospitality that I’ve had the opportunity to experience the beauty and challenge of Aurukun, and connect with this deep passion within myself. It’s through her strength of character, integrity, and genuine kindness that ensured she was deeply respected in Aurukun, and that as an extension of her I was welcomed kindly by many local members of community.

Thanks Gen xx

 

World University Games, Thailand

My last ever world university games (I’m now too old) was everything I could have hoped it would be. 14 swimmers went from Australia, along with 7 support staff, and we had a fantastic time. The villages was great, the food was full of fabulous Thai flavours, the competition facilities were top notch, and we turned in a lot of good times and personal bests.

Every competition touches my heart and sits in my memory forever, but this trip is certainly a highlight in my swimming career. After a couple of days of settling in to the village we had an all Australian team banquet. As World University Games is an event similar to the Olympics of Commonwealth Games in that it has multiple sports coming together under the banner of their country, the team banquet was an opportunity for us to get to know our Australian teammates from other sports and mingle a bit. It was also the night of the announcement of the Australian World University Games team captains. To my surprise and great joy I was announced Women’s Team captain, with my co-captain basketball player Mitch Brennan announced as men’s. I felt incredibly humbled and was shaking when I went up to receive my gift, and even more overjoyed that I was asked to be the flag-bearer at the Opening Ceremony.

I’ve never been to an opening ceremony before, I always choose to rest my legs and watch it on the TV. To be honest, it was a very long day, but it was worth it for the exhilarating feeling of leading out the team with Mitch, and waving the Australian flag high over my head. We did a lap of the stadium with endless cheers echoing, and then stood with the other flag-bearers throughout the ceremony, holding the flag high and proud. Although my arms felt fairly numb by the end as they didn’t provide us with a hip-holster for the flag, I felt ten feet tall and was smiling from ear to ear. Regardless, I still had another very important job to do, the one I had travelled all the way to Thailand for… to race. So the moment we were allowed to leave, I sped to the first bus I could get on so I could return to the village and rest up. Being flag-bearer at the Opening Ceremony gave me a whole new set of challenges that I hadn’t expected, and now had to face. Regardless of the lead weight of my arms and legs, I still had a job to do. Thankfully Cory Prout and Chris Garbett, our talented team physio and massage therapists were happy to give me a massage that night to help me recover.

The morning after the Opening Ceremony was also the first day of the swimming. Although I was still pretty exhausted, I had the 4 x 100 freestyle relay along with Alice, Erin and Alanna. As it’s a team event, we were all depending one each other to give it our all, and so I knew I had to step up. We all swam solid, and finished 11th. Day 2 was the 100 freestyle. I was feeling a little bit more recovered, though my legs were still heavy. I reminded myself that on the day of racing the only thing that matters is racing. So again, I got myself in a mental state to push through any pain that came on to me, and gave it 100%. Although the grand piano dropped on me from 100 ft above at about 80m, I still pushed on. I didn’t make the final, but I had given it everything I had, and was pleased. Finally I had a couple of days to rest and recover before my 50.

When the last day of racing rolled around I had had 3 days of resting and cheering, but no racing. I had a bit more spring in my step, and felt more ready to race. I finished the heats in 8th place going in to the final, and knew I had more in me to give! That day I rested up, visualized my start and finish several times, and mentally prepared to give it more! So that night when I stepped up on the blocks, heard my teammates cheer me on, and got down in to the ready position, I knew I’d give it everything I had… and then some. I touched the wall 6th place, having improved in both my time and my finishing position, and was thrilled.

More than anything, that swim symbolized to me that the journey I have been on this year, the challenge I have faced in coaching myself, has been successful. I went the fastest time I have gone in 20 months since Commonwealth Games trials, and even that time was only .2 quicker!  But most importantly I succeeded in my task.

It’s been a tough but rewarding season. I have learned a tremendous amount about swimming, let alone coaching myself!! But also about what drives me, how to push myself through challenging times, and that success isn’t measured in gold medals (though they are wonderful and certainly a goal to strive for) but in overcoming challenges. I have complete faith that I can significantly improve over the next 7 months leading in to Olympic Trials, and I am thoroughly looking forward to the experience involved in getting there, as well as the fun and thrill of racing. I love what I do, and I love the challenges and joys of swimming.

Thank you for all your support and well wishes, and most importantly… your faith in me.

Victoria Pan Pacific Championships

The Pan Pacific Championships ended about 10 days ago, and my voice is finally returning to normal! We had tremendous team support and cheering, and the smallish venue of the 1994 Commonwealth Games pool in Victoria, Canada, made every scream feel louder and closer than usual. It was an exciting meet with 6 world records, and numerous fast times! Pan Pacs works a little differently to World Championships, Commonwealth Games and Olympics in that a nation can enter multiple swimmers, basically whoever opts to race in each event. So what that means is we didn’t only compete to make the team, we then have to compete within the team to make the finals!! It made for some exciting morning swims and was a good exercise in getting up and swimming fast early. That will be an especially useful experience if the Beijing Olympics definitely have the finals conducted in the morning. (yes, crazy stuff happening in world swimming!)

I qualified for Pan Pacs in 50 freestyle, but opted for a race in 100 freestyle also. 100 freestyle was 2 days before and therefore the perfect amount of time to wake my body up for racing, yet still have time to recover! I swam my 100 using skills I would need in my 50, and not really worrying about time. Probably a good thing, because the time wasn’t flash!! But I nailed everything I wanted to, and certainly woke my body up completely!! (and painfully!) My 50 was on Sunday the 22nd, and I qualified smoothly for finals. That night I struggled to cut more time off the clock, but certainly found speed. A little too MUCH speed. I got pumped up, excited, and ready to race. I powered off the blocks, into my dolphin kicks that I’ve been working hard on, and came out with bristling speed! The only problem was that the bristling speed was because I was over revving, and my motor burnt out by about 45 meters. It may seem like it would be possible to maintain speed over those last 5 meters of racing… but it so happens that when the motor cuts, it’s as though a grand piano drops from sky scraper height and crashes into little old me. In fact I’m surprised I was to stay on the surface considering that!! I finished in 6th place.

I have plenty to learn from the race, and my journey continues. I worked really hard last season on getting my speed and power up, and certainly succeeded in that! Now it’s time for me to focus on stretching out, whilst maintaining all that wonderful speed. I’ve got a great base to work from, and I trust that it will come together for World Championship Trials in December in Brisbane. I’m heading to Bath, England to train with my coach Kim Swanwick who helped get me on the World Short Course team 2006, and with whom I’ve stayed in close contact since. Although I’d love to continue to swim with Andy Deichert under the Florida sun, and play alongside the fish on the reef; with hurricane season in full pelt, it’s time to get out of dodge.

My sister is getting married in just over a week (YEAY!) so until the wedding I’m spending time breathing the thin air up in the Colorado mountains, and riding my bike everywhere. It’s beautiful up here, and certainly a wonderful way to spend a holiday while maintaining good fitness.

Make your dreams a reality!

Shanghai World Short Course

How better to prepare for a competition than to stay in a bona fide palace (by name at least)!!? Our campaign for World Short Course 2006 in Shanghai began with a staging camp in Kuala Lumpur, and residence at the Palace of the Golden Horses. With endless gardens, a river, majestic hallways, and of course golden horses, it was probably as close to a palace as any of us will ever see (except of course if I’d taken Prince Albert out on a date back in 2004…)

We were testing out the hotel and the swimming complex near by (which was fabulous) as Swimming Australia plans to use KL as the staging camp location for both World University Games in 2007, and the Olympics in 2008. Suffice to say the team gave it all two thumbs up!

At training one day in KL, the Minister for Sport, Minister Azalina, dropped in for a good old fashioned Aussie G’day. She took the time to chat with a couple of the swimmers, and spoke to a few of us girls about how she’s excited to promote women’s sport in Malaysia. She was excited to see so many women cruising around in their swimming suits, without a concern in the world. She said she was doing a great deal of research into the Muslim faith and it’s views on women in sport, and was confident that she would see an increase in female participation leading into the Olympics and beyond. It was pretty exciting to chat with her and to hear her confidence, passion, and intellect shining through. I hope it all goes well!

We spent some time at the markets in KL, bargaining down prices from the obviously grossly overpriced “foreigner” prices on items. One of the coached on the team was so excellent at the process that he bargained down a $200 watch and got it for $10!! Clearly not authentic, but it looked awesome!

We headed out to Shanghai, and on the bus ride from the airport to the hotel I reckon every one of our faces was glued to the windows. We were astounded at the density of population. There must have been a sky scaping apartment building every ten meters or so! I couldn’t believe how closely packed the buildings in the city were, and how far the city seemed to extend. And Shanghai has several million people LESS than Beijing! To put things in perspective, near on the whole east coast of Australia could fit into Shanghai! Amazing.

We cruised around Shanghai, rested up, and got ready to race. I must say, I was slightly disappointed at the standard of the competition complex. Perhaps it was simply that it didn’t live up to my expectations, but I had figured the complex and pool would be impeccable considering they have the Olympics coming up in 2 years. But instead the water was cloudy, the air was chlorinated, and the warm-up pool was only 5 lanes with ropes separating the lanes. Far from the standard we experience at home for competitions. But we had to get up and race, regardless. The conditions were the same for everyone, so the playing field was equal. I had my first swim on a major team in the 4×100 freestyle relay. I only swam in the heats, but it was exciting to get up and go! we qualified for the finals, and the girls went on to swim a silver medal. Good work girls!! My 50 freestyle was on the second last day. I got myself up and ready to go, swam a solid heat, and qualified for the semi-final. I has some errors in the heat swim that I was confident I could correct for my semi swim, but alas the errors got the better of me and I finished with a 10th place finish. I spent the next 24 hours cheering my lungs out for my teammates. Sometimes things don’t go just how we hope them to go, but I believe there is a lesson to be learned in every situation, and I’ve taken time to analyse the season, the race, and my approach. I reckon sometimes we learn more when things don’t go to plan, than we do when we excel!

I enjoyed two days in Shanghai on holiday before heading home to beautiful Sydney. I walked the Bund (a major attraction in the old city) early in the morning and watched the locals dancing and doing Tai Chi. I visited the Jade Budda Temple, and several other temples with gorgeous statues of gods and Budda. I took after the locals, lit incense, said prayers, and soaked in the serene environments of the temples. The most serene to me was the Confucian temple, possibly because there were so few people there! The markets were a joyful experience, though exhausting! They offered everything from toe rings to golf clubs, at a fraction of the price to be found elsewhere. I purchased dvd’s for 80 cents, but even more impressive, a teammate of mine got a full set of Nike golf clubs for $200!!

Overall, it was a good experience. And experience that opened my eyes culturally and also taught me some good lessons for my future swimming career.

I have 5 months until the Pan Pacific Championships in Canada in August, and in that time I’ll be working on my errors from racing! I’m heading back over to the Florida Keys to work with the coach that guided me through the season leading into Olympic trials 2004. I’m excited to swim under the summer sun, and hopefully we’ll experience similar results to the past!!

Believe in the power of your dreams!