My body and I have had a turbulent relationship to say the least. Some times I feel like it is the stubborn, cheeky twin I didn’t have.
I grew up at home with my mum, dad and two older brothers who were 8 and 10 years older than me. Some might have said spoilt rotten, I like to think of it as showered with love and affection.
We lived a few streets back from Bondi Beach in Sydney and I remember spending a whole lot of time at the beach with family and friends, swimming, surfing, playing in the front yard on skateboards, games of cricket with my brothers and just hanging with buddies outside when I had a spare minute.
I didn’t have many spare minutes. From a young age, sport was my passion. Swimming, Surf life Saving, Dance, Gymnastics, Tee-ball. You name it I wanted to play it. Sport was my thing; it came somewhat easy to me.
I do remember my mum sitting me down when I was about ten years old and giving me the “I think we need to start focussing on just one or two things now” speech. Now that I have kids and am running them around to activities I can see that my sporting habit was completely exhausting her. So we decided to focus on swimming and whatever school sport was on that term.
The pool was like a second home. The people were like family. 10+ times a week, I was driven there excited to train. I wanted to be the best and I knew for that to become a reality I needed to put in the hard work. There was nothing that I could see stopping me from wearing the green and gold tracksuit and representing my country at an Olympics’ one day.
I trained my butt off in and out of the pool, I raced against the boys, I pushed my fit little body to its limits. It was my vessel to achieve amazing things, I achieved regional and State medals. I got up at 5am in the morning, trained, went to school, trained, ate my dinner, did my homework and went to bed everyday for years. I loved it.
When I was 12years old I made my first Age National Championships. It was going to be held in Brisbane. The team would fly up there, we would stay at the same hotel together, compete for a few days and then a few families were going to stay for a week or so more to enjoy some down time and enjoy the theme parks and holiday.
I was excited beyond belief. I was training for two very different events. The short sharp 50m freestyle and the 200m Butterfly. A gruelling event, that usually comes down to sheer determination to touch with two hands at the end.
We had arrived in Brisbane and the team was buzzing. I had trained so hard, experienced an incredible preparation and could visualize what I was there to achieve. In my mind I could see, that if I followed the game plan that my coach and I had set out, that I could walk away with a National medal. Especially since the much-anticipated program had me ranked third in the country for my age.
For the next few days we moved as a team, we wore the same uniform, had athlete tags to get us in and out of the venue, caught team buses, and ate meals together. The anticipation to race was building. For me, this was an experience of a lifetime. We had done the hard work, the early mornings, the cold training sessions; the long mileage and we were there to put all of ‘that’ into one race.
The day before my race, we went to visit my cousins who lived near the venue. We didn’t get to see them very often so it was great to catch up and I guess break the intensity of being in ‘camp’.
We were mucking around in the backyard jumping on the trampoline when I remember my leg giving way and falling. There was an intense pain as I grabbed my knee and held it too scared to let it go. I screamed in agony unaware of what had just happened. I held it tight, hoping the pain would go away and too scared to look down, as by now I was well aware that my cousins face was one of sheer horror.
It didn’t take long for my mum to come racing out to see what had happened. There I was in the foetal position grabbing my knee, tears streaming down my face, pain radiating around my body, lying on the trampoline praying it was all a dream.
Ten or so of the slowest minutes passed before an ambulance arrived with some well-needed pain relieve. I had dislocated my patella (knee cap). My patella had relocated itself to the lateral side of my leg. Getting it back to where it needed to be was no easy task. After waiting for the pain medication to kick in we very carefully but what felt like abruptly had to straighten my leg for it to resign itself back to it’s intended position.
I remember the intense feeling of pain, I also remember an intense feeling of disappointment and fear over what this would mean for my upcoming race the next day.
At the hospital, it was decided that the best way to treat an injury like this was to put me in a plaster cast. Oh geez, I can feel my heart rate rising. There I was, a day away from swimming in my first National Championships, after having trained for years to be told that ‘No, you wont be able to swim.” I was gutted. Completely gutted.
I spent the entire National Swimming Championship sitting on my bottom in a plaster cast from my ankle to my upper thigh. Not able to swim.
My fit, strong and capable body had let me down.
At 12 years of age, it was the first time that I had really felt that way about my body. It didn’t end there. My relationship with my body underwent severe strain and anguish in the years that followed……