Swimmers from country Victoria had the opportunity to learn from some of Australia’s best last weekend, as Craig Jackson’s high-performance squad stopped by WAVES aquatic complex in Wodonga to share their experiences and expertise with the young swimmers.
The volunteer-run swim club, which was formed in 1959, was alive with energy as elite swimmers such as Mack Horton, Koti Ngawati, Jorden Merrilees and Sian Whitaker, sat down poolside on Saturday afternoon for a Q&A with the country community.
Facilitated by Jackson, himself a former Olympian having represented South Africa, the 70 participating swimmers, parents, coaches and club volunteers had the chance to ask their burning questions of the Olympic, Commonwealth and World Champion filled squad.
Tackling queries from the youngsters, the swimmers were open and honest about their personal experiences in dealing with pressure on and off the blocks, puberty, mental health, physical well-being and balancing education against a rigorous training schedule.
2016 Rio Olympian Ngawati, a Cairns-born athlete, was particularly excited to share her knowledge with the developing swimmers after having experienced a similar opportunity herself.
“Leading up to 2008 Olympics, we had the national team come up to far North Queensland and I absolutely loved it,” she said.
“We had Libby Trickett, Christian Sprenger and Grant Hackett all come up and I was just in awe. Being a country kid growing up in Cairns it was an absolute dream. So, for us, to be able to give back to the country here in Wodonga it’s a privilege – if I can walk away inspiring at least one person then I’ve done my job.”
Following the Q&A, alarm clocks were set early the next morning ready for the practical portion of the clinic. It was a brisk 12 degrees when the young swimmers began on Sunday morning, warming up with land-based exercise and reaction times.
Watching on with intense focus, the group had a demonstration from Olympic gold medalist Horton, as he displayed correct freestyle body position amongst other stroke specific drills.
The clinic also involved technical advice from the athletes and personal coaching for individual strokes. World Champion swimmer Daniel Cave oversaw breaststroke with the assistance Benno Negri, Jackson took the young butterfly swimmers with Ngawati providing demonstration and Merrilees, Whitaker and Elyse Woods guiding backstroke.
“I think it’s wonderful for us to be here. Giving back is really good and being able to share my knowledge is great,” Merrilees said.
Having made the Australian team recently, the backstroke swimmer was elated to be able to share his experiences.
“I’ve been in the sport for so long that I’ve sucked so much knowledge from so many different people, it’s good to give that back out here.”
Upon finishing the clinic, head coach Jackson echoed Ngawati and Merrilees’ sentiments.
“The guys and I get a lot from the sport and being able to actually give back, especially to kids that probably don’t have the same opportunity that those within our program do, it’s been an absolutely awesome weekend.”
To find out more about the Wodonga Swimming Club head to their Facebook page, and for all the action from the weekend take a look at @swimmingaustralia on Instagram.