In January, Olivia Howse moved to Australia to experience swimming in a country renowned for its accomplishments in the sport. That’s a big move for a fifteen-year-old, but Howse’s eye had been on Australia for years, both to spend time with family there and to take the opportunity to intensify her training and continue to improve in her sport.
Howse is doing grade 11 at Oakhill College, with 360 students and a large and impressive campus: another huge change in a year of many changes. She swims with the Northwest Swim Club coached by Jake Miller, where she has the opportunity to train with several national level swimmers.
In Fernie, Howse typically swam 1.5-hour training sessions, 7 times per week, but in 2020, Covid-restrictions reduced her pool hours to only three times per week. In Australia, Howse swims 7 times per week, 2 hours each time, with 2 extra gym sessions per week.
“The morning sessions here start at 5am and end at 7, so I am waking up at 4:15 to get there on time. Very early in the morning! It’s been over 3 months and I am still not used to that yet.”
The Australian attitude to swimming is different too. “I find it more individual in a way, for example how at a meet we all go and watch and cheer on the side of the pool for each other, while here that is not allowed at meets. This makes the energy change. It becomes more intense; however, here you support each other simply by watching, and especially at training, which is just as important. I am not saying that this is a bad thing, it is just different and it is interesting to experience the environment.”
Howse misses all her Fernie friends and family and says that change has presented the biggest challenge, along with adapting to a new schedule with all the early mornings and extra schoolwork. “It is very stressful taking it all on, especially with jumping forwards half a year in school. However, with my first term done I am confident that it will only get easier and I am excited to see what this year holds for me.”
These challenges come with big pay off. Howse finds herself in close proximity to some of the very best swimmers in the world. “My most exciting swim moment so far would have to have been getting to watch high performance Australian athletes, such as Kiah Melverton, Cate Cambell, Mack Horton, and many more amazing athletes compete.”
This month, Howse was one of two swimmers in her club to qualify for the 2021 Australian Age National Championships at the Gold Coast. She placed 34th in the 400 free (with a time of 4:45.47) and 30th in the 200 free (with a time of 2:12.5).
“I am not completely satisfied with how I performed at this meet. However, I have only been back training again for about three months and so it is expected to not be quite at my best level in terms of times. Simply being able to compete at this level in a different country was an amazing experience, and it was great to be able to get back to that level here and really feel the environment and just enjoy all the time I have here to the fullest.”
Olivia Howse now heads into short course season and her Dolphin teammates and coaches are excited to continue watching her international swimming adventure.
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