Talented 16-year-old Tumut Swimming Club member Ashley Van Rijswijk was thrilled to learn last year that she had qualified to compete in no less than 10 multi class events at the 2017 Australia Age Championships, to be held at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre from April 16-23.
Ashley will be swimming in Multi Class events in the 50m and 100m butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle, 400m freestyle and 200m individual medley.
Multi Class (MC) swimming is a form of competition designed specifically for swimmers with a disability and consists of some minor modifications to the rules and regulations for the typical swimming events.
Ashley is classified in the multi class system as S14 which is for swimmers with an intellectual impairment.
There are a total of 16 classes, catering for a range of disabilities, in the classification system administered by Swimming Australia.
The Swimming Australia website contains further information on the Multi Class classification system at www.swimming.org.au
Ashley commenced swimming lessons as a seven-year-old at the Tumut Swimming Pool under the watchful eye of Tumut Swimming Club’s head coach, Leanne Turnbull, and has been swimming competitively for the last four years.
Leanne and assistant coach Max Hargraves were justifiably very proud of Ashley’s qualification to compete at the Australian Age Championships. They said that this had given the whole Club a boost and that it was a great achievement for Ashley.
Max recalled that the Tumut Swimming Club had not had a swimmer qualify for the Australian Age Championships since 1975 when both Gary Dodd and Allan Davey qualified in the same year.
For her preparation, Ashley will regularly be swimming twice a day with early morning and afternoon sessions for a total of 6-8km per day .
This will be supplemented with regular sessions at Tumut’s Crossfit Gym where Ashley will work on her core and strength conditioning.
Both her swimming club coaches Leanne and Max will be working her hard until the Tumut pool closes for the season.
Unfortunately the pool closure will come at a crucial time in Ashley’s preparation and her parents will then have to drive her to Wagga, Junee or Cootamundra to one of the heated swimming pools there to maintain her swimming fitness leading in to the Australian Age Nationals from the 16th April.
Her parents Tash and Craig noted that while it’s not ideal to be travelling constantly to neighbouring towns at such a crucial stage of Ashley’s final preparation, unfortunately there’s no other alternative without a heated pool in Tumut.
Tash and Craig were also very proud and thrilled for their daughter’s achievement and said that they had not given any thought to the possibility that she may one day be competing at the Australian Age Championship when she started swimming for fun with the Club.
“Swimming has always been something that Ashley has just loved doing, but this has really opened up new opportunities for her,” said Craig.
“We were fortunate to be awarded a sponsorship from the Southern Cross Sports Academy after we learnt that Ashley had qualified for nationals.
“This will help with funding for the trip to Brisbane where we will have to stay for five days for the swim meet before returning home.
“Swimming is such a great activity for any child, regardless of whether they have a disability or not. I’d recommend to all families of young children to come down to the Tumut pool and experience the club environment and the friendship, which is fantastic.”
Club President Kevin Dodds noted that all Tumut Swim Club members were thrilled for Ashley to be competing at the 2017 Australian Age Championships.
He said Ashley’s qualification for Nationals will help raise the profile of the club but more importantly it shows that the Tumut Swimming Club caters for swimmers of all levels and abilities and that a disability is certainly no barrier for anyone aspiring to compete at a National level.
Ashley is a great inspiration to all swimmers at the Club and her commitment to training has shown everyone what can be achieved with the right motivation and drive to succeed.
Asked if she had any souvenirs in mind to bring back from Brisbane, Ashley said she was saving her money for something special when she arrives at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre in April.