Water wings: Courtney flying under Gary’s coaching

COURTNEY Chapman has gone from not wanting to swim at all to such rapid improvement in the pool, she’s on track to potentially claim a medal at the 2015 Australian National Open Water Championships.

The 16-year-old Orange High School student is being mentored by former Ireland, Britain and New Zealand national swim coach Gary Hollywood and having already shaved two minutes off her 10 kilometre time, she’s hungry for me.

“It’s tough at times, but it’s worth it.” Chapman said of her dive back into the swimming game.

“It’s intense, but at the same time if I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t do it.”

Chapman’s most recent efforts in the water were at the Australian Nationals in Melbourne, and it’s there she “made some big improvements” in extremely trying conditions.

Encountering jellyfish off the coast of Victoria, Chapman defied the odds to shave two minutes off her personal best 10km time and improve her national ranking from 23rd to 16th in the 5km open water swimming event.

The new benchmarks aren’t a huge surprise to her coach, however.

“She’s made great progress this year,” Hollywood said.

“From where we first started ... she’s already improved seven places (in the 5km event).

“The conditions in Melbourne weren’t ideal either. Not many swimmers swam to their best times, but Courtney took two minutes off her 10km time.”

Coaching in Australia for just over a year, Hollywood was directed to be the head coach of the swimming program at Kinross Wolaroi by Ian Thorpe’s former mentor and having dreamt of working in Australia since 1988, jumped at the chance to move to Orange.

Able to source a fifth of his squad from outside of the Kinross school under the proviso the applicants are swimming national qualifier times, Chapman was exactly the sort of swimmer the Northern Irishman had been looking for.

“A good tough Aussie chick. Good height, good work ethic and good ability,” Hollywood said, adding there was plenty of laps still to be swam.

“I don’t like to rush things, and we’ve got a lot of work to do because, although we’re in Australia, people aren’t used to training to my level in the country. We’ve got to try and bring the city to the country.

“We’ve got a lot of foundation work to do but I like to think maybe in a couple of years time she’ll be in the mix for a medal and then hopefully that’ll be the launching pad she needs for her career.”

Chapman said the ultimate goal was a national medal, of any kind.

Adding the improvements in her times had a lot to do with “getting that confidence” back in the water, the budding open water star said the only way is up.

“Last year I didn’t want to swim,” she admitted.

“Last year at nationals I went bad and then this year I didn’t give up, I didn’t fall behind and I kept going.

“I feel fitter.”

nick.mcgrath@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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