Swimmers' buildup gets sharper focus

Last updated 05:00 26/01/2013

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Academy Southland is taking its services wider as it looks to help Southland's synchronised swimmers in their buildup to the world championships in Spain in July.

Nine athletes from Invercargill's Phoenix Synchronised Swimming Club qualified to represent New Zealand at the world championships and will be joined by three of New Zealand's top synchronised swimmers who have moved to Invercargill to train.

The Academy Southland Talent Xcelerator programme, which offers athletes support in mental skills, athlete life, nutrition and strength and conditioning, is usually reserved for a group of athletes selected into the programme.

However, with multiple Phoenix club members applying for this year's intake, programme manager Jason McKenzie said it made sense to take a team approach.

"Academy Southland is always looking to be innovative and to meet the needs of Southland athletes wherever possible so we opted to provide the 12-strong team with support in its six-month buildup to the world championships," he said.

"That support will be made up of a combination of workshops, coach support and individual sessions primarily based around nutrition."

Performance dietitian Aimee Burns will work one-on-one with team members with individual assessments and nutritional goals as well as offering team-based seminars, while McKenzie will focus on athlete life and mental skills in a series of workshops.

Coach Luciana Garcia says the young team - average age 17 - will gain much-needed advice, support and knowledge with the assistance of the Academy programme.

"The girls train up to 27 hours a week and considering 10 of them are fulltime students this is a huge commitment and challenge.

"Some of the girls are only 14 and 15 and ideally they would have years more preparation before going to the worlds. But this is an opportunity they can't let go so, in a very short period of time, we have a lot of work to do, considering each individual as well as the whole team," she said.

"When we spoke to Jason about it, we decided it would be much more beneficial to do something as a team rather than take one or two girls into the Academy programme.

"Most of the girls are new to the high performance world and with the amount of hours they are training and the importance of body shape in synchro, Aimee's expertise, in particular, will certainly be beneficial over the next few months. Nutrition has a very important role in the athletes' performance, health and wellbeing so we are really looking forward to the girls getting this type of assistance," Garcia said.

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The Academy Southland Talent Xcelerator programme is a joint venture between Excellence in Sport South Island, the Community Trust of Southland, the ILT Foundation and Sport Southland.

It is designed to fast-track athletes on a performance pathway and increase their understanding and readiness for the high performance environment.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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