Ayla's Swimming Success

10 Oct 2022

Participant Stories

Can you believe Ayla has only been swimming for the last two years!? We are in awe of where Ayla’s hard work and determination have gotten her, all the way to the School Sport Australia Swimming Championships, finishing with a swag of medals around her neck.

Ayla was born with a condition called Arthrogryposis, which restricts her ability to move and flex her hips, knees and ankles. Because of this, sport hasn’t been a part of her life, until now. Over the last two years, with the encouragement of one of her teachers at school, Ayla has launched herself into swimming. She made the School Sport Victorian State team to go to Nationals but unfortunately, Covid had other plans and the championships for that year were called off. She didn’t let this break her spirit and trained even hard this year to again make the School Sport Victorian State team.

For Ayla the chance to swim at the School Sport Australian Swimming Championships, held in Brisbane, meant that she would get to meet and compete against other young people living actively with disabilities. Over the past 2 years, she had only competed against 4 other young people with a disability.

With a new “race-suit” that needed to be custom fitted and finding herself in a team environment for the first time, it is safe to say she flourished! Coming home with 2nd in the Individual 2nd in 100m Backstroke, 2nd in the Relay (medley), 2nd in the Relay (athletic handicap) and 3rd in the Freestyle Relay.

We were able to ask Ayla a few questions about her lead-up, how she dealt with her nerves, and what’s in store for the future.

PTC: What has been the change in the last two years that has seen you get into sports and your swimming? Was it anything in particular?

AYLA: One of my teachers from school really encouraged me to do it, before then I had never really thought about it. I’m very happy she recommended it, I really enjoy it.

PTC: Last year with the Titles being cancelled due to Covid how did you deal with the disappointment? Did it make you even more determined to be ready for 2022?

AYLA: Last year I was quite upset about not being able to go to the swimming, I even had all the gear prepared! This year I took it a lot more seriously and actually trained multiple times a week. Last year I didn’t really do any training at all, I only went to the pool about once every month or two months.

PTC: What was your preparation like in the lead-up to National Titles? And how were your nerves? Did you have any techniques to help if you did start to feel nervous about it all?

AYLA: For my preparation, I went to my local swim club in Echuca twice a week, once on a Thursday morning and once on a Monday night each week. I would also go down every Saturday or Sunday and swim about 15-25 laps. Some Monday nights I would even go to swim club in Sunbury where I would meet with my Coach Karen who specialises in multi-class swimming. I wasn’t particularly nervous while I was still in the state, but when we arrived in Queensland, that’s when my nerves really started. I didn’t really have any techniques but something that made me feel better about it was that my coaches had told me that it’s good to have nerves and that they would help me go faster.

PTC: How was it finally being able to compete and meet so many young people living actively (and thriving!) with a disability?

AYLA: Were you able to chat and connect with others like you were hoping to? I think it was a great competition with the girls that I competed against. They were all so kind and supportive. I did get to chat with them and congratulate them.

PTC: Mum mentioned you found it so lovely to be a part of a team. Team environments can be such great motivators for getting the best out of ourselves. Did you find the team environment really lets you relax and enjoy the moment?

AYLA: I really loved being a part of team Victoria. Being able to cheer on my teammates and them cheering me on really made me feel like a part of the team. I loved getting to know the coaches and getting feedback from them. All of my teammates were so kind and congratulated me on all my events.

PTC: What are your plans from here? More swimming? What is the next goal you are focusing on?

AYLA: My plans are to continue swimming but not training as much for a few weeks. I would really love to be able to be a part of team Victoria again next year so I will continue my training. My next goal is to start practising my breaststroke. My coach Karen and Vivienne told me I would be able to do it and that if I kept practising I could get really good at it.

Congratulation Ayla! We can’t wait to see where your swimming takes you next.