As a teenager I spent many hours training in North Sydney Olympic Pool. Perfectly positioned between the harbour bridge and Luna Park while nestled on the foreshore of Sydney harbour, and with all its retained charm of its 1930’s era, it is absolutely my most favourite pool to swim in.
But this week it was Alfie’s turn. Having qualified at his school’s swimming carnival to compete at the Zone Swimming Carnival, we caught the bus to the swim centre on a perfect Autumn day.
Eleven schools were represented that day at what was Alfie’s first Zone Swimming Carnival. He was to swim in just one event, the Under 9’s 50 mtrs freestyle. He was a bit nervous. I asked, ‘What are you worried about?’ and he said, ‘What if I do a false start? What if I fall off the diving blocks? What if my goggles come off?’
‘Well then, you’d be in very good company. Because there are a lot of Olympians who have experienced all of those things but, like them, you just have to be positive and if anything like that happens, get back up and try again.’ But he was still rather anxious; I was nervous for him myself.
There were six heats and Alfie was in the last one and given Lane 6. I managed to get an action shot of him diving into the pool. Apart from the fact his head needs to be tucked between his arms, this was a great dive. But am I allowed to say that I find it very frustrating watching Alfie swim? He has beautiful style; he’s on top of the water, he swims perfectly straight, he bilateral breaths while only allowing just one eye out of the water and he’s a strong swimmer. His technique is actually great. But he moves through the water like he’s trying to unwind after a hectic day. Those arms move over his head so slowly and his kick is leisurely.
I complained about this to his swimming coach and she said, ‘I can’t give him the killer instinct, no one can teach that’. Fair enough.
He didn’t win. You can pick the winner of this heat. That’s him in Lane 3. First off the blocks, first into the water, head tucked in between his arms doing a perfect dive and sporting a speed-suit. Killer instinct in spades.
My little guy came fourth. It was such a close finish I thought he came third but alas, by .0001 of a second, third place was given to the other good diver, the one in Lane 8. We didn’t need to stick around for the finals.
Alfie swam his race in 46.10 seconds which was a personal best so that was something to celebrate. However, just to put that time into perspective, Australia’s most successful Olympic swimmer is Ian Thorpe. Among many records, Thorpe holds the Under 10’s 50 mtr freestyle record. I don’t know how long ago it was that he set that record but his time was 29 seconds. Next year Alfie will be in the Under 10’s. We have a lot of work to do!
After the race I showed him around the swim centre. It has changed a lot since it opened in 1937 but all the original charm remains. I took him to the kiosk that is now run by Ripples and alcoholic beverages are served. Tempting, but I thought it was a little early for my first drink.
I showed him the ‘Hall of Fame’ where there is a wall of photos of famous Australian swimmers who have set world records in that very pool including John Konrads who won the 1500 mtrs at the Rome Olympics and Dawn Fraser who won medals in Melbourne, Rome and Tokyo Olympic Games. I said to Alfie, ‘Do you find this inspiring?’ and he shrugged and said, ‘A bit’. I blame his father; when it comes to sport he has no killer instinct – these are his genes I’m battling.
Never mind. Alfie didn’t do a false start, he didn’t fall off the blocks, he kept his goggles on and he swam a PB; in my favourite Olympic pool. And as my boy with no killer instinct added, ‘And it was a day out of the classroom’.
Not a bad day out at all. North Sydney Olympic Pool: 4 Alfred Street, Milsons Point NSW 2061 Ph: 9936 8368 If you liked this post, you’re welcome to share it.