Tara Kinders Nationals experience

2017 was my second year competing at the Australian Age Championships. Last year in 2016 I raced in the 100m breaststroke and the 200m breaststroke and unfortunately I didn't make any finals The age group I swam in this year is the same that I swam in last year which is 12-13 year olds so I was one of the older girls competing in my age category, where as last year I was one of the youngest which was a disadvantage. This year was a huge improvement from last year! I went from qualifying in two events and going to Adelaide to swim them, to qualifying in 7 events and flying up to Brisbane to compete in 5 of those events. It was definitely a nerve racking experience. I felt that there was a lot of pressure on me to swim well seeing that my rankings were pretty high. That's why next year, I'm planning on just getting in the pool and swimming without looking at my rankings beforehand so I don't feel as pressured or stressed.

I was all packed and ready to go.... the night before our 10am flight. As long as I had everything I needed I wasn't worried about when I had my things ready. My dad drove my mum and I to the airport and we loaded our luggage and got ready to take off. We said final goodbyes to our family as we wouldn't be seeing them for around 8 days. It was a short two hour flight up to sunny Brisbane, Queensland. I remember arriving at our hotel and drooling over the fact there was a seafood bar right next door to us and the beach right across the road from us. All I did was go inside and get a few things into the hotel closet then got some shoes and sunnies and walked to the beach. I guess you could say it wasn't as exciting as I hoped it would be.... only because the beach was filled with blue green algae so we couldn’t set foot on it. But there was a lovely pier where you could get a great view of the sunsets and rises.

First night in Brisbane was my "adjusting night" were I got used to my surroundings and the fact it would be up to 30 degrees Celsius during the day and a low of 17 degrees at night. Thankfully the time zones with Melbourne and Brisbane are the same so I had no jet lag.

I woke up the next morning to prepare for my first race. After a 20 minute drive to the pool I jumped out of the car and stood in awe. The sports complex was incredible! I followed my coach to the stands of the pool and as I looked down at the pool I was just overwhelmed. It was nothing like the pool in Adelaide. I remember thinking that it looked so professional and I just wanted to swim in it, but I couldn't yet. The outdoor pool was the warm up pool which had 13 lanes! I got in the water excited but nervous, swam my warm up, struggled to put on my race suit and went down to the marshalling room. I handed in my accreditation and sat down next to one of my friends. As they called up my heat I stood up and jumped around a bit just to get my blood pumping. We walked out into the hall and then onto pool deck. This was it, my first race of 2017 Nationals, 200m breaststroke heats. All I was thinking to myself was "I did it last year and I can do it again". Considering it was the heats I was definitely going to swim my heart out but I didn't want to kill myself so I was very cautious of my pace. It's like the old saying 'slow and steady wins the race'. All I was focusing on was my technique stroke rate and breath control seeing as it was a 200 I needed to be extra careful. I touched the wall from my last lap and squinted as I looked up to read the board. There it was "Tara Kinder - 1st Australian". Inside I literally went "!!!!". I was so happy and excited for the finals that night. I went home had a sleep, ate, stretched, rolled, and then headed back to the pool. I did the exact same thing as before the heats and then walked out to go behind the blocks. As I was standing behind the blocks I just completely zoned out on all of my surroundings and focused on getting in that pool and swimming my hardest. I swam and swam and kicked and kicked and turned and turned all the way through the pool. On my very last lap I saw a girl from another state out of the corner of my eye and I couldn't quite tell if she was in front of me or not. I didn't want to risk it, so I just went as hard as I could. I touched the wall and grabbed a huge breath then looked right around at the board. "Tara Kinder - 2nd Australian". Was I excited? No. I was over the moon!! I mean, yes I was a tiny bit disappointed from losing that gold medal but oh my god I just got a silver medal competing against Australia!! It was such an amazing feeling to have and I will never forget it.

Now I'm not going to blabber on about every single thing I did on every single day so I'll just briefly sum it up minus that huge paragraph about day 1 before. Every time I got behind those blocks I felt a mixture of confidence, determination and nervousness. I tried to keep my mind simple and focus on the main points of each race. I figured that if I wanted to do well, I had to get in the water and just swim as hard as I could without overthinking everything which would only stress me out. I had two days in a row off, one of which I went shopping and did a bit of necessary homework and the other I went to Brisbane's south bank. There was two parts of the area, each side by side. A man made beach and a pool which was as blue as you could imagine. Then you took a little walk over the side of the man-made beach to come to a little kiddie pool theme park sort of area. Overall the 2 days were really fun. Then it was back to reality with my final two days of nationals. Once again I just got in the water and swam as hard as I possibly could. To be honest, I was happy with the result of all of my races. I wasn't expecting to do as well as I did. I remember getting heaps of congratulations messages and texts from my friends and family that I didn't even know were watching the live stream. The support that everyone was giving me was so overwhelming and I really only expected a few "well done"s and hugs and kisses from friends, but they completely went over my expectations.

That silver medal was my highlight of the entire week. I was going into that 200 breaststroke final with my aim being to try and get in the top ten at least. And coming out with a silver medal made me very emotional. I was a mess behind the podium and I looked around the crowd and I spotted my friends here and there through everyone and their smiles were just as big as mine. That same emotion hit me when I got my two bronze medals once again being overwhelmed with everything that was going on. I was completely speechless and so happy.

Just to sum up the week: it was an experience that I will never forget and one that I can use to improve in the future and help me prepare for the next step.

TARA KINDER

tara

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