FORGET THE CONTROVERSIAL SUPER-SUITS, JOHN McNAMEE MEETS TWO WOMEN WHO BRING THE REAL SPIRIT BACK INTO THE WORLD OF SWIMMING
DAWN FRASER can relax.
The multiple Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medallist who was the first woman to break the one minute barrier for the 100m freestyle way back in the 1950s, now won’t have to face a determined pocket rocket from Sydney’s eastern suburbs in the swimming pool at the upcoming 2009 World Masters Games.
Our Dawnie might not be aware of diminutive Rua Carlay, a spritely 74-year-old who will be there on the blocks when the swimming championships kick off in October.
Rua, who’s won a swag of medals over the years competing in Masters swimming events, thought she might have had to face the legendary Olympian in her pet event, the 100m freestyle at the Sydney Olympic pool, Homebush. Much to the horror of many senior swimmers, Dawn loves getting back in the pool for these sorts of big events, as do fellow Olympic legends Murray Rose and Shane Gould.
But Rua, who’s deaf in one ear, has now entered for the disability section of the World Masters pool events so the heat’s off Dawn!
“I’m pretty sure that if I was competing against Dawn Fraser, I’d still be on the blocks when she hit the far wall,” Rua laughs.
But the gutsy little widow typifies the spirit of the senior athletes who will be testing their skills when the World Masters Games commence in Sydney on October 10.
Thousands of athletes aged from their 30s to their 80s and 90s, from all around the globe have registered for the Games and will be competing in a wide range of sports from athletics, archery, badminton, canoeing, football, hockey, shooting, surf lifesaving, touch footy, water polo, swimming and weightlifting.
Many of the competitors are past Olympic, world and Commonwealth Games champions….many have their trophy rooms at home bedecked with dozens of medals, ribbons, cups and shields from a lifetime of elite competition.
But for Rua Carlay and her training partner Judy Barr-David, who’s in the 65-69 age group, competing in the World Games is one of the biggest challenges they have both faced.
“Look we don’t have any illusions about our ability..we know we are up against it, but we’re going in it for the fun, the experience and for the fact they we enjoy the competiveness,” Judy told Go55s at the Des Renford Memorial Pool in Sydney’s Heffron Park.
Well, you couldn’t hope for a better inspiration than that of the late 19-times conqueror of the English Channel now could you?
Both Rua and Judy and their 85-year-old fellow competitor Rita Weberbauer (who was on a month long tour of the USA just before the Games), have been regular members of the famous Coffee Club swimming group at the pool which was set up by Des Renford and Olympian Terry Buck almost 20 years ago.
The girls are coached by former Australian beach champion and national surf lifesaving Captain, Patrick Manning, who took over the squad when Renford died in 1999.
“There’s alot of friendship and fellowship at the Coffee Club and although we don’t worry too much about what times we swim, we love testing ourselves and accepting these sorts of challenges,” said Judy, who admits she used to listen to the swim coaches at Bondi pool when she was a kid just to get some swimming tips.
Both Judy and Rua have been regular competitors with the Aussi Masters teams and at Coogee-Randwick RSL club.
“I’ve won some medals over the years but I’ve never been an age group champion or anything like that , I just love the regular training and spirit of competing that we share at the pool here,” says Rua, who has been swimming with the Coffee Club since the Renford days more than 15 years ago.
Judy admits that none of the men in her life, her husband Leon and their two sons aged in their 30s share her interest in the sport of swimming.
“I think they were a bit surprised when I said I was going in for the World Games but they’re proud of me,” Judy said.
Rua’s a real trouper when it comes to travelling to swimming carnivals… she’s actually competed with Australian Masters teams in both the US and Canada but admits she finished ninth in her last international event.
“I just love it, it’s wonderful. It’s all about keeping fit, sticking to a good diet, staying healthy and sharing the experience with friends and family,” says Rua.
Both girls, who have to pay a staggering $220 entry fee each to participate in the historic Games, won’t be making it easy for themselves.
Rua has entered the 50 and 100m freestyle while Judy is in the 50m and 200m freestyle and the 50m backstroke.
“We’ve been training in winter at the 25m pool so before I go to the Games I’m going to have to try to get some practice in the 50m pool to get used to the longer distance again,” says Judy.
It’s the first time the girls have entered for a swimming event of such magnitude as the World Masters but they are both totally unfazed and not overwhelmed by the occasion.
“Aw, I might get a bit nervous beforehand but as soon as I hear the gun go, well at least I hope I hear it, that’ll be it, I’ll go for it,” says hard-of-hearing Rua who will have to be tapped by an official when she’s on the blocks for the disability event so she doesn’t miss the start.
“I just hope someone comes along before the Games and offers us one of those polyurethane or whatever they are, super fast swim suits, they might help us alot,” Judy laughs.
But when you’ve got the spirit and pluck that these two highly inspiring ladies have, then I reckon the new super suits would be entirely superfluous, don’t you?
Good luck girls and may you conquer new Worlds!
· EDITOR’S NOTE: THE AUTHOR OF THIS ARTICLE, JOHN McNAMEE IS HIMSELF NO STRANGER TO SENIORS COMPETITION….HE IS CURRENTLY RANKED NUMBER TWO IN THE WORLD IN THE OVER 60 YEAR AGE GROUP 1KM BEACH RUN AND BEACH SPRINT AND WILL BE COMPETING IN BOTH THE SURF LIFESAVING AND ATHLETICS (100M AND 200M SPRINTS) AT THE WORLD MASTERS GAMES IN SYDNEY.