Olympics, Here We Come!

St Peters’ Olympians Are Ready

It’s not every day you have a member of the College community make an Olympic team, let alone nine of them, but, this year, that’s precisely what’s happened. Following on from our announcement about Old Scholar, Eve Thomas (2018) making the New Zealand Swim Team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, a further six St Peters Western (SPW) swimmers joined her (making the Australian Team), as well as Head Coach, Dean Boxall!

The selection of swimmers from SPW was the most from any club in the country. On a College front those named included current student, Mollie O (Year 12 – St Peters Springfield); Old Scholars, Ariarne Titmus (2018), Abbey Harkin (2016), and Madison Wilson (2011 – Marion Swimming Club, not pictured below). St Peters Swimming Head Coach, Dean Boxall, was selected for his first Olympics as an Australian coach, with New Zealander, Eve (2018), and SPW Squad swimmers, Mitch Larkin, Meg Harris and Elijah Winnington, taking the numbers to nine.

If the names above, and the multiple events they represent, aren’t enough to get you excited for the Olympic Games this year, we caught up with five of the six St Peters Lutheran College representatives while they were in Brisbane following the Australian Swim Team Trials in June. Proud, focussed and just in town for two days before two weeks of pre-Olympic camps in Cairns, it was clear that our St Peters Olympians were ready to take on the world!

Young and Accomplished

There was a buzz in the air when we met with Ariarne (Arnie), Abbey, Mollie, Eve and Dean at the St Peters 50m pool on Tuesday 22 June. Straight back to training after the Australian Trials in Adelaide, there were jokes being thrown around despite a rush to get ready before they all packed their bags again. Tokyo 2020 will be the first Olympics for all five of our interviewees—an achievement that has not gone unnoticed by any of them.

“The Olympics is the pinnacle of our sport,” Abbey shared, with Ariarne adding a bit more about the journey.

“When you’re little, when you first start swimming, the only thing you think about is going to the Olympics,” she said. “Even though I’ve been away on other trips, I’ve still felt like I was missing something from my career. Now, to be become an Olympian, it’s kind of like the icing on the cake.”

While definitely proud of his Tokyo-bound swimmers, Dean did take a moment to reflect on his other squad members.

“It’s just a long week,” he said of the Australian Trials. “A bittersweet week, because I got six [SPW swimmers in the Australian team], but I had thought, if everything went well, we could’ve potentially got eight. The ones that didn’t make it, that still hurts.”

Still, the journey to, and accomplishment of making, the Olympics was not lost on him.

“I started coaching on Monday 13 October, 1997,” he said. “I did have [three] years break, from 2001 – 2003 … but I’ve [been building] up to this from then.”

“It’s the pinnacle—there’s nothing higher, he added. “You can climb the summit of the Olympics, but that Gold, there’s nothing higher. Earth doesn’t go against Mars!”

More than Numbers

With so many members of the SPW squad selected to go to the Olympics, you might think that the swimmers were chosen to make up team numbers…that is unless you know anything about the standing of Swimming in Australia.

The Australian Trial times are the fastest trial times in the world—faster than those set by the Olympic committee. To make the Australian Swim team, you not only have to be one of the top two swimmers in your event, but you must swim a time faster than that of the Olympic selection times.

“If you make the Australian team, you’re pretty much put in a league that’s the best in the world,” Dean said—an accomplishment that inspires his swimmers to push even harder.

“It’s one thing to be an Olympian,” Ariarne said. “But when we go, we don’t just want to make up the numbers. We’re going there to actually, hopefully, win a medal.”

And there’s every possibility of that.

“Arnie’s ranked number one in two events and Elijah’s ranked number one in another event,” Dean told us. “Mitch is ranked number two for one of them and then Meg is number four in the world. Mollie’s number six and Abbey’s around eighth … You’ve got to be in the top eight in the world to make it, so [they’re] in an elite bunch.”

Stronger Together

Obtaining a career goal at such a young age doesn’t happen overnight and, thanks to the pandemic, the St Peters Western swimmers’ journey to the Olympics hasn’t been without its hiccups. At times, it seemed like it wouldn’t happen at all, yet they’re not resentful.

“I think [COVID-19] was mainly a positive for me, because I’m at such a young age,” Mollie told us. “It gave me the opportunity to train and get better and get down to the [qualifying] time.”

Ariarne added that it helped them all to refocus.

“It put things into perspective and, personally, I realised how much I wanted to be there,” she said. “To have something taken away when it was so close and for it to now be finally happening again, I think it feels even better!”

It’s an attitude the whole squad shares, despite them competing for different nations—an occurrence that feels “a little bit weird [but] pretty normal at this point,” according to Eve. And when all the hype of the Games gets too much, they’ve got their coach to watch their backs.

“You don’t coach differently [for the Olympics], you just have to make sure that your swimmers don’t consider this meet to be bigger than what it is,” Dean said. “It’s a swim meet. It will be big anyway, because it’s got that fanfare of being ‘The Olympics’. [So, it’s my job to remind them that they’re] exceptional athletes just for going there. The Olympics needs athletes like them, it’s not the other way— [they all] deserve to be there.”

And with his pride and expertise carrying them forward into the Summer Olympic Games (23 July – 8 August, 2021), we can’t wait to see the splash they’ll all make.

“I hope you guys watch and support,” Dean said to us, before he set off to offer a few final words of coaching to his New Zealand swimmer, Eve. “We’ll do our best for St Peters and for Australia.”

Good luck SPW Swimmers!

The ‘Tokyo 2020’ Opening Ceremony is set to be televised from around 8:30pm AEST this Friday 23 July. To watch it, and all of the Swimming events, featuring our incredible St Peters Western (SPW) swimmers and College community members, tune in here: https://7plus.com.au/olympics. Let’s #GoSaints!