No kitten required as Waterworx swimmers excel at states
IT WAS about this time last year when Waterworx Swim Club coach Paul Sansby was ruing his promise to a talented young pupil to buy her a kitten if she performed in a particular event at the State Swimming Championships.
The Siamese Ragdoll has barely left Mollie O'Callaghan's side since.
Twelve months on, the 14-year-old has continued her meteoric rise to the top of Queensland swimming with another standout performance at the same championships.
Six medals; three gold, a silver and two bronze was the haul over six days of intense swimming.
Sansby knew better than to use a second kitten as a bargaining tool this time around.
"I didn't have to bribe her with a cat this time,” Sansby said.
"I don't know how her parents would have taken it. I probably would have been on their persona non grata list if I sent another cat their way this year.
"Mollie might have turned into a crazy cat lady.”
As a national-level backstroke swimmer, Mollie was always expected to perform well in her pet events - and she did.
Gold medals in the 14-years 100m and 200m backstroke were followed by an impressive win in the Open 100m of the same discipline.
"Because she's a national age champion we expected her to medal in the backstroke,” Sansby said.
"But you never know who will turn up; someone might suddenly jump out of the crowd.”
But Mollie saluted as expected, and without the likes of Emily Seebom Kaylee McKeown in the Open swim she also claimed gold in what was still a hotly-contested final.
"The big two were missing, but on the flip side she still had to beat Shayna Jack who swims on the national team - she's a long way from being a slouch,” Sansby said.
"Mollie went under 1:03 for the first time to win that, so we were pretty happy with that.”
Silver in the 14-years 100m freestyle followed consecutive bronze medals in the 200m and 400m 14-years freestyle respectively.
If the backstroke had potential to be a toss-up, Sansby said the freestyle events always offered up surprises.
With the most popular stroke also the event many want to win, the sheer number of competitors can throw all expectations out the window.
"The freestyle events are a coin toss, especially the 100m,” Sansby said.
"The 100m and 200m she's always competitive in, but everyone wants a piece of that action. Her 400m I was really happy with, it's an event she's not super confident in, so we were really happy to be amongst the medals there.”
But it was not so much the medals which Sansby was most pleased with. Rather the signs of Mollie's continued matureness in the pool, having to continuously back up through heats and finals day after day.
"To keep swimming and medalling after six days of racing . . . at this age, kids have to learn if you want to make it as an Open swimmer, you have to be able to compete for more than one day at a time,” he said.
"The tough part is being able to race a heat, back up, race a final, then do it all again the next day.
"Last year she got a bit tired and didn't have the mental toughness to go on with it. But now I've seen she can maintain her level of fitness and more than that, her mental toughness.”
With a new-found confidence in Mollie's ability to swim through an extended meet, Sansby said 2019 would include "doing a couple more Open meets”.
"Now we'll target Open Nationals and then swim through into the age group nationals, they're about a week and a half apart,” he said.
"Her skills are improving all the time; the starts, turns, her discipline in her underwater work, and the discipline out of the water as well.
"She's doing all the right things with recovery and is a lot better with her diet. It's a mature approach she has going at the minute.”
Waterworx teammate Mercedes Siganto also impressed at the championships, swimming personal bests in the SB9 200m breaststroke and 100m butterfly.
"She swam great PBs,” Sansby said.
"Her first was in the SB9 breastroke, and then again in her age group 200m breastroke. Then she made the able-bodied 100-fly final with another big PB.
"We'll take her down to Open Nationals as well, and give her a chop at the breaststroke events.”