We asked Aly a few questions about her involvement with swimming in the region …
What age did you start swimming?
I started swimming rather ineptly at age of 4 on holiday at the beach on Waiheke Island and actually practiced my swimming in my early competitive years by swimming out to my Nana at the beach who would slowly move herself further and further from shore as I got better.
I was not a naturally gifted swimmer. I had to train really hard to be good at what I did. I missed 5 scheduled training sessions in my swimming career from the age of 13 through 27 so I was a very committed and driven athlete, just not mega talented. I was taught early on by my parents to see through the commitments I had made and I just kept on committing season after season. It was not easy and I spent the ages of 17 through 20 not really improving in my main event which was the 100 free. I was lucky I was very versatile stroke wise ( I swam 14 events at NAGs every year – I was allowed to miss one event and I always chose the 200 backstroke because I just didn’t get why people swam it – sorry backstroke friends !!!) so could move around to different events to keep my interest and training focus up. My coach also had a philosophy of using race meets as the best practice for racing so raced quite a bit. I learnt to love 200 freestyle by the end of my career as I finally got the gist of swimming it – I still never got it right but really did consider it my favourite race by the end of my career. Just found it ugghhh in my teenage years – ohh the pain!!
First Club and Coach?
My first club was Ace (here in Hamilton) and I am a life member of that club and it is still very important to me. Dick Treloar was my first coach and I trained with him for 12 years. At 20 I moved up to North Shore and the high performance programme (it was just starting) at Millennium and trained with Jan Cameron and Igor Polianski, then Jan Cameron and Thomas Ansorg, before retiring from the sport at 27.
How much did your first pair of togs cost?
I only got new race togs once a year when I had nationals and they were just normal speedo training togs, just 1 size smaller than the ones I trained in. I had 3 pairs of race goggles my entire swimming career (16 years) but only used them at race meets and they sucked my eyeballs out. I would have made it through on 2 pairs but they fell apart about 6 months before I retired – perhaps they were sending me a message. I had tonnes of training goggles though as that chlorine for 4 hours a day perishes them pretty fast. I also used to train in at least 2 pairs of togs as I would just layer the falling apart togs over the slightly less falling apart togs until they died. Most of my swimming togs lasted 2-3 years in some form or another, baggy or otherwise. Togs did progress to how they are now over the later stages of my career and as a member of the national team, I got provided togs for the major meets like Olympics etc. as they needed to be branded so from that side of things, togs got cheaper as I got older 🙂
Tell us about the times you have represented New Zealand?
I have been on 2 Olympic teams for NZ – the 1996 team as a 16 year old where I qualified for the 100 freestyle (also swam the 50 free and 3 relays) and the 2004 Olympic team where I swam the 50/100 Free and the 3 relays for NZ. I also went to 5 world championships and 1 commonwealth games. I won a bronze medal in the 4×200 at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. I retired after the World champs in 2007.
What is your best sporting memory?
Representing NZ at an Olympic games is a very unique experience as there are so few of us to have done it in any sport. Also I would say winning 10 National Open titles in the 100 free over my career – starting in the mid 90’s and finishing in 2007.
Why have you turned to Coaching?
I fell in to coaching really. I worked for the NZ Olympic team in London in 2012 and had left my job prior to that to travel etc. I came home to Hamilton and while looking for work, helped out a bit as sick leave replacement out at St Peters. It soon moved to 20 hours a week and now is practically my full time job. I love sharing my passion for swimming and encouraging the kids I coach to love swimming and enjoy all the great elements the sport has to offer. Swimming can be and should be a part of everyone’s life in some form. It has so many activities that branch off that base line learning of swimming skill. I want the kids that I coach to have a lifelong love for the water. The discipline and friendship and challenge that come from the sport are also great by-products too.