Synchro swimmer sets sights on junior worlds
New Zealand synchro swimmer Ali Robertson’s normal Thursday is not a normal Thursday.
The 17-year-old Academy Southland member will be in the pool by 5.30am, training until 8am when it’s time to head to Southland Girls’ High School.
After school it’s straight to the Mike Piper Training Centre at the SIT Velodrome from 3.30pm until about 5pm where she will be building the explosiveness and power required to compete at the top level.
Then it’s back to Splash Palace for another pool session from 5pm to 7pm. Then it’s home for a break – just kidding – then it’s off to gymnastics training for an hour, before eventually arriving back in the front door at home sometime after 8.30pm, some 15 hours after leaving.
Time for study, or anything else, on Thursdays?
“If I can fit it in...normally I just eat and go to bed,” Robertson said.
The hard work has its rewards, though.
Robertson, a foundation year Academy Southland member, and fellow Southlander Arielle Wilkes have just returned home from representing New Zealand at the world swimming championships in South Korea.
While the championships themselves will be remembered for athlete protests and a collapsing nightclub, Robertson has much happier memories of her world championship debut.
“It was awesome, the best thing ever. The atmosphere was really cool – being in an environment where everyone else was much better than us was quite daunting, but it was really, really rewarding at the same time.”
The New Zealand synchro team went to Gwangju intent on building experience for next year's world junior artistic swimming championships in Quebec, Canada.
The average age of the team was just north of 16, with only two team members qualifying as senior swimmers, and all but one appearing at that level for the first time.
Competing in a purpose-built pool inside a basketball stadium, Robertson was not over-awed by the occasion.
“I was less phased than I thought I would be. Seeing the pool for the first time was daunting, but competing was pretty chill actually,” she said.
“We weren’t going over there to place or make finals, we were going for the experience and we were really happy with what we did.”
Robertson competed in the teams events in Gwangju, but hopes to expand her portfolio for the junior worlds with the solo and duet.
She began synchro after being encouraged by the mother of a friend when she was eight and loves the thrill of nailing a routine, despite the hours of training.
“I think it’s the combination of everything – the swimming, the elegance and the grace combined with fitness, it’s really cool,” she said.