Southport sensation Chelsea Hodges has labelled her maiden titles at the 2021 Australian Swimming Championships as ‘extra special’.
The 19-year-old flexed her breaststroke ability from day one, claiming her first Australian Open title by a fingertip margin of 0.13s in the 100m breaststroke event. She backed her performance up the following day in the 50m final, breaking a 10-year-old All Comers record set by fellow Southport swimmer and Australian Dolphin Leiston Pickett with a time of 30.20s.
The 19-year-old says the event, which took place on her home deck at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, has been a long time in the making where she can finally compete alongside the ‘big girls’.
“It’s pretty exciting. I've been looking forward to being able to have an opportunity to go for an open medal, let alone first,” Hodges said.
“It's been really good last couple of years. I’ve been putting a lot of hard work in, and finally it’s my time to come up with the big girls. There's a good group of us girls and we really do push each other. It's really good to come out on top.
“This was extra special. Especially doing it in a home pool.”
Hodges praised the work of her coach Sean Eels and physio Victor Popov who have helped her reach the top step of podium since undergoing hip surgery five years ago.
“My coach and I, we've been together for 12 years now,” Hodges said. “I have been with Sean since I was eight years old. It's been really nice to do that with him. We have really good communication and have a really good plan.
“I've always had the ability to get strength and power. We've really utilised that.
“I've done a lot of work outside of the pool as well with my physio, Victor (Popov). We really took it back to basics.
“I'm in good hands, and (Victor) has been really great.”
Hodges says her ambitions of reaching this year’s Tokyo Olympics would be a dream come true as she shifts her sights towards becoming an Australian Dolphin.
“It would mean a lot to me,” Hodges revealed.
“I think I've had a lot of battles physically when I was younger. I had hip surgery when I was 15, and I’ve always looked at making the Olympics.
“I just missed out on the Commonwealth Games and kind of see it as a blessing. I’ve got a lot of time to reflect and learn a lot more, now that I’m a bit older now.”
Hodges is set to compete at the upcoming 2021 Australian Swimming Trials, with the hopes of making her first Olympic team.