With a swag of swimming and coaching medals to her credit, international coach Emma Swanwick is breathing new life into Ace Swimming Club. Her impressive credentials include swimming at national level for Great Britain and coaching a number of athletes to Olympic and world success.
Of British descent, Emma is now a permanent Kiwi, having first visited here in the mid ‘90s for a role in Christchurch as a swim coach.
That move lasted 10 years and following a stint in South Africa, she now happily calls New Zealand and Hamilton home.
Having started swimming as a three-year-old, time both in and on the edge of the pool has played a key role in Emma’s life. She admits to ‘a serious competitive streak’, whether competing or training – although in more recent years she has turned to pedal power over water power.
“I was asked to take part in a triathlon years ago because of my swimming strength, but it turns out I enjoyed the cycling side the most,” she recalls.
“I decided to have a go at cycling after that one triathlon and entered my first competition a few months later.”
While she modestly admits to being ‘quite successful’ in the sport, achievements include winning gold at Masters Games (NZ 2003) and South Africa (2004) in 40km time trials.
“I’ve always been competitive in the sporting arena, but I also love the psychology and science involved with sport – and this all comes together as a coach.”
Emma took up coaching while she was training for her teaching degree after someone asked her if she wanted to be a teacher or a coach.
“That struck a chord and made me think, so I got involved with coaching and really enjoyed helping kids progress and seeing them improve and enjoy the sport of swimming.”
Among those she has coached are Britain’s Zoe Baker (who set seven world records under Emma’s guidance), Cameron Gibson (fastest New Zealander 100m freestyle, Commonwealth Games medallist) and South African Olympic swimmers (2004 gold relay medallists).
The graduate of Bedford College of PE and Sheffield University has led a life filled with many courageous moments, but says every success of her swimmers has been a definite high point.
“Whether they’re winning gold, or setting records, or achieving personal bests, there’s a definite sense of achievement and happiness as a coach.
“And I’m hugely enjoying my role at Ace, working with a club which wants to be progressive and is prepared to make changes to do so.
“We’ve been really concentrating on technique and have basically retaught all of the swimmers, and are now beginning to see the rewards.
Ace committee member and parent of three swimmers, Kelly Parker says the appointment of Emma as head coach is ‘hugely exciting’ for the club.
“Our kids are incredibly lucky to have someone with this level of talent and commitment involved,” she says.
“Emma has come on board and put a lot of care and thought into restructuring the programmes, and streamlining all our processes, from better time management of our pool lane allocations through to ensuring every swimmer is catered for.
“We’re operating under a far more logical structure now and everything is transparent with total accountability. Every swimmer is clearly assessed and progress is followed throughout the term. As a parent it’s great to know exactly where your child is at in terms of speed, technique and skill levels.”
Kelly is also quick to praise Emma’s efforts in collaborating with other swimming clubs.
“Previously we’ve all operated pretty independently. Emma is keen to see swimmers train and compete more regularly with other clubs so our swimmers are exposed to top level competition no matter what grade they are at.
“Everything is done with the aim of building swimmers skills, confidence and experience. It’s exciting times ahead.”