Representing New Zealand abroad is easily my favourite part about being an athlete.
On the 12th of November 2015 I boarded a plane bound for the Netherlands.
Our team of 8 were to compete in two lifesaving competitions in Europe. The events offered invaluable experience, as the Europeans are renowned for their exceptional skills.
The first competition, The Orange cup was a genuinely unique experience.
Our team began racing less than 24 hours after arriving at the accommodation. Normally, athletes will allow a minimum of a few days (if not a full week or more) to give the body a chance to adapt to a new time zone, in this case a full 12 hours. I chugged a lot of strong coffee the morning of competition in an attempt to distract my body from the fact that I would be racing between 10pm and 4am New Zealand time!
I relished the challenge of having to dive straight in to racing. Jetlagged, stiff and ankles still puffy from long hauls, the competition was a chance to see what I could produce without ideal preparation. Fuelled by caffeine and the novelty of racing after 30 hours of travel, I was surprised to set a number of best times fresh off the plane.
What eluded me at the Orange Cup, however, was regaining the 50m manikin carry world record I set at the same competition two years prior.
(The 50m manikin carry is a one length sprint event. Athletes swim to 25m, dive to the bottom to pick up a 50kg orange manikin before dragging it, one armed, to the finish)
To date, that experience has ranked amongst my top. I remember slamming my hand in to the wall and hearing the crowd erupt in applause. I had no idea I’d broken the 50m manikin carry world record because the results board was difficult to see from the finish.
At the Orange Cup, I touched in 34.5, setting a new New Zealand record and coming within .2 of the new record.
After the Orange Cup had finished our team loaded in to two cars and took to the autobahn. Watching Audi’s glide by as we cruised at 150km was both unnerving and impressive.
The 2015 German Cup attracted competitors from 17 different countries.The warm up pool was unlike any swimming competition I had experienced. There were people trying to fit in a little more skills practice with manikins, swimming in huge sharp fins, diving in to lanes filled with athletes. It made my half hour splash a mental and physical warm up to say the least…
The 50m manikin carry was on the first day of competition in Germany. The pressure for that event came solely from myself. When I had broken the world record in 2013, it was a huge surprise, the culmination of newly acquired skills and no expectations.
2015 was different.
Having a goal with a definitive success or failure measurement is daunting. For my coaches, my teammates, watching me win gold or set a new best time would be a success. For me, success would be defined by whether I could break the record.
The athlete who claimed the record earlier that year was in the same race, lane 4, the favourite to win. The 2015 German Cup was nothing like 2013. Attempting the record was like controlling a runaway mental bullet train overloaded with fear, excitement, doubt and determination.
I won the race by .1 and broke the world record by .03.
Fragments of seconds have never meant so much.