Getting up at 6 o’clock in winter is a challenge for anyone; hopping out of a warm bed and into a pool is madness!
Well not if you are a National School Championship-bound swimmer!
Aspen Moore (Dubbo) and Callum Smith (Wellington) have committed themselves to the daily “punishment”, swimming extra hours in less than ideal conditions. Their parents wake them early for the short drive to Firgrove and an appointment with an equally dedicated coach, Cath Osborne, who has kept her 25-metre pool heated so these kids can prosper.
“These two youngsters have all the attributes from which champions grow,” according to Cath, at her Splash Swim School.
“They have continued to train even though the Olympic Pool and RSL Indoor Centre are unavailable. Swimming outside before school when the air temperature has been around 0 to 7 degrees takes a lot of courage, resilience and self-motivation – all personal attributes Callum and Aspen have in abundance,” Cath glowed.
Last weekend the pair returned from the 2018 Carlile Speedo Cup Championships with a swag of medals and eight personal best times between them. Forbes Carlile, the legendary Australian coach, passed away last year but the man who coached nine world champions in one meet in 1973 would have been mightily impressed!
Forbes’ wife Ursula was on hand for the meet to witness gold-medal swims by Aspen in both the 50m and 100m freestyle events, and Callum reassert his ranking in the top 10 swimmers in his age group across the nation.
Aspen came home with two gold medals, two silver and two bronze. She swam four PB and is ranked in the top six in all events.
Callum added a gold and silver from his 10 events. He swam five PBs and finished in the top six in seven of his events.
“Swimming PBs without being able to swim the number of sessions and distances that would routinely be ideal for swimmers performing at this level is a credit to Callum, Aspen and their families’ commitment to their growth as people, not just swimmers. They are talented and capable, but it is their amazing determination, humility and persistence that will help them throughout their lives,” Cath said.
What makes Aspen and Cal’s achievements even more remarkable is they have had to endure outside temperatures as low as minus-5 and water at 20.6 (last Friday), compared to swimming in pools around 24-25 degrees during the season!
“They wear sleeveless wetsuits and two caps to keep their core body temperatures under control. This way their bodies are warm, but their arms are free so as not to restrict their stroke.”
Cath gave an even more graphic context. As the temperatures drop the pair are swimming slightly shorter sessions with lots of sprinting and very short rests.
“They swim for 60 minutes before school; their opponents are still swimming full sessions twice a day in heated indoor 50-metre pools.”
To accommodate the very different winter sessions brought on by the loss of the RSL Pool, Cath and her team of coaches have undertaken an intensive learning curve. They have been exploring the impacts of cold temperatures on swimmers and devising strategies, such as the wetsuits, to limit the possibility of hypothermia.
Cath said, “It’s quite funny really the way Aspen and Cal have approached it. One of the systems they read about explained that people experience a ‘fuzzy head’ if they are in the water too long and body temps begin to drop. So during our sessions they try to sound confused and pretend they’ve lost count, then when I remind them of the reality, they laugh and say, ‘Just checking you’re not slipping into a fit.’
“They are very fit and highly motivated and that helps as these sessions are challenging physically, mentally and physiologically. When they start the session they become instantly pale as the surface blood flow changes, and breathing is hard during the first 200-300 metres of swimming as the body adjusts to the cold,” Cath told me.
“The initial feeling of cold lessens as their bodies become accustomed to the cold water – this is when monitoring performance and other signs of hyperthermia are important,” she added.
“Callum and Aspen are gaining a wonderful respect for what they can and can’t control in their training routines. The weather is out of our control but most other aspects, like keeping hydrated and eating well, they are managing and the results are still coming,” the proud coach continued.
Aspen will represent St Johns Primary school at the Australian All Schools Swimming Championships in July, to be held at the indoor aquatic complex in Hobart.
Callum, meanwhile, has recently returned from Australian Age Championships where he swam for the Dubbo City Swimtech Club and is now ranked in the top 20 fastest swimmers for his age in Australia – which proves hard work and discipline is getting results.
Aspen and Callum, our community salutes you!