This week, Alstonville's Lachlan Walker has been competing in the Australian Swimming Trials for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo. We caught up with the 18-year-old before he left.
Tell us a bit about the Olympic qualifiers, what events are you in and what do you hope to achieve?
The Olympic Trials are in Adelaide this year and are a selection event for the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
While I am realistically not in the running to make this team, I can't wait to get the valuable experience of racing in such a high pressure environment for future campaigns.
I am entered in the 200m and 400m individual medley, the 100m and 200m backstroke. the 200m butterfly and the 1500m freestyle so lots of opportunities to compete against Australia's best.
I'm hoping to qualify for a final - so top eight swimmers in the event - and cant wait to get the experience of high profile racing.
So the best case scenario would be Olympic qualification this year, how much do you want to represent Australia at the Olympics one day?
Representing Australia is the ultimate goal for me and this year is all about getting the experience of racing in a high pressure environment. Olympic Trials is the biggest national competition and being held every four years, I'm definitely looking forward to learning the process for future events.
You would have a keen eye on 2024 for the Olympics and beyond I would imagine. Swimmers aren't at their physical peak until they hit their 20s.
Yes that's correct, the average age of swimmers on the Australian and US Olympic teams is 24 years old, so experience in the lead up to this peak age is key in maximising performance. In 2024 I will be 21 and in 2028 when the games are in Los Angeles, I will be 25, so lots of big goals to look forward to and keep me motivated in the coming years.
If nothing else the qualifiers will be a great experience and something to build off for the rest of the year. What other events do you have coming up?
After the Olympic Trials I will focus on the short course season (25m pool) with several state level competitions in Brisbane as well as a national short course championships in Melbourne to look forward to.
When did you start swimming and what got you hooked?
I started swimming competitively when I was eight and I love how swimming pushes you to your limits and the adrenaline rush I get from racing against my competitors and achieving my goals. Swimming also relaxes me a great deal and lets me cope with the stresses of being in year 12.
Swimming is early morning starts in the dark and long days on weekends at carnivals, it's not easy and obviously have to be dedicated?
You need to be a very self motivated athlete in swimming because you are completely accountable for your own performances. I'd like to consider myself a goal oriented athlete and setting big goals certainly helps to get out of bed in the morning and push your body to the limits. Having a fantastic team also plays a huge role in motivating me as it becomes much easier to push yourself when you have great friends and competitors beside you doing the same.
What talent/development programs are you part of?
I have been selected in the NSW Flippers squad which aims to assist promising athletes to successfully transition to the pinnacle of swimming in Australia - the Dolphins Swim Team.
What impact has your father (Graham) had on you? At home and as a swimming coach?
My parents have had a huge influence on me and my love for the sport, I definitely couldn't be swimming as well as I am now if it wasn't for their dedication and commitment.
From taking me to every pool in northern NSW to fit training sessions in, to paying for the huge costs that are attached with competing across the country including training fees, equipment and travel.
Dad has been coaching me for five years now at Alstonville and has dedicated hundreds of hours to helping me achieve my dreams. He has always made sure that I haven't done too much training too young and that I can always add something that will improve my performance each year such as weight training and massage. He is very knowledgeable about what it takes to succeed at the highest level and is committed to helping swimmers achieve their goals.
Have you had any other coaches. Who and how have they helped you?
For the past few years Clayton Fettell, ex professional triathlete and Alstonville local has been coaching me and this year has significantly increased his workload. He has been extremely influential this past year and has worked hard to get me in great shape and prepared to race the best in the country.
When I was younger I was also coached by Jenny Pilgrim, who is currently coaching at Lennox Aquatic Centre, and she was a huge influence on me and really opened my eyes to what was possible coming from a regional area as her daughter had great success representing Australia on junior teams.
When did you first realise you had the ability to be a top ranked swimmer?
Something that really motivated me to achieve success in my sport was when I missed the national championship qualifying time by less than a second when I was 14. At first I was disappointed that I had not qualified but I used this failure to drive me toward better performances in the future. Another very memorable moment was making my first national final in 2019 and then winning multiple medals in 2021.
How much does it help having a twin brother who also swims and other mates from the Alstonville club who compete at national level?
We have a fantastic team culture and environment within our club and this definitely contributes to the great success that we have had over the past few years. We all support each other and celebrate our achievements while passing down the knowledge and experience to younger swimmers and hopefully inspiring them to achieve similar things one day.
It definitely has helped me having Hamish training and competing alongside me everyday and we have been very competitive from a young age and pushed each other beyond what we thought was possible. Hamish is an International Biology Olympiad team member, meaning he is one of the top four students for biology in Australia and he works very hard in every aspect of his life to achieve success. He is also a state medallist in swimming so we definitely make each other better athletes when we race and train side by side.
I'm extremely grateful to Greg and Kelly at Alstonville Aquatic Centre who have facilitated my training over the past five years and are striving to build a culture of excellence in the fantastic facility that they manage. Shane Hill at Reactive Sports Massage has also been a huge contributor to my success this season by helping me recover from hard weeks of training and competition. And I am in debt to my teammates and volunteers who make Alstonville Swimming Club such a fantastic place to be!