Christmas has arrived early for four Brisbane Olympic swimming hopefuls Thomas Neill, Louis Townsend, Bronte Job and Carla Buchanan with the unveiling of a ground breaking Athlete Scholarship Scheme – in what is believed to be the first of its kind in the Australian swimming landscape.
The innovative City View Management (CVM) group, which operates 23 learn to swim schools and venues across South East Queensland, under the Rackley Swimming name, is funding the game changing scheme.
The scholarships are designed to keep the hopes and dreams alive for the four Tokyo Olympic hopefuls – and many more in the future – both in and out of the water.
The four Rackley Swim Team members have their sights set on the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Swimming Trials in Adelaide next June.
They gathered at the Rackley Hibiscus Leisure Centre in the Brisbane suburb of Upper Mt Gravatt this week for an introductory workshop focusing on media and mentor training after undergoing a rigorous application and interview process before CVM announced them as the initial recipients and team ambassadors.
The Rackley Swimming Athlete Scholarship Program is the brainchild of CVM CEO, Reece Rackley and Rackley Swim Team Centenary Head Coach Damien Jones.
In what is believed to be the first of its kind in the Australian swimming landscape, the athletes have been signed to 12-month contracts, receiving:
- Monthly financial support;
- All Squad, camp and training fees
- Personal development mentoring/coaching;
- Marketing/Social and Media support/training and;
- Assistance in seeking personal sponsors.
The CVM group’s objective with the first 12-month scholarships is “to provide a professional and collaborative approach to high-performance outcomes both in and out of the pool.”
Rackley Swimming’s General Manager Squads and Sport Pathways, Anastasia Ellerby said: “Our scheme will enable our athletes the ability to focus on benchmark events without the concern of financial load from physio/ massage/ travel/ camps and other support needed for optimum athlete development.
“The Tier One athletes will receive a monthly payment and will also be supplied with Rackley Swim team and Base gear with all squad fees included in the scholarship terms.
“It will also cover cost of support services such as personal profile workshops/mentoring and film and media training.
“The athlete will contribute to Rackleys as a valued team member in the development of our programs, younger swimmers and industry reputation.
“We believe that their involvement in learn to swim and Squad clinics and events will drive the right culture and performance across all of the CVM sites.”
Freestylers Townsend and Buchanan have already represented the Australian Dolphins – Townsend at the 2017 Fina World Championships as a relay swimmer and 2018 World Short Course in the 100m freestyle and Buchanan at the 2016 and 2018 Fina World Short Course where she won two relay bronze medals.
Emerging distance freestyler Neill and backstroker Job were members of the Australian Team at the 2019 Fina World Juniors where Neill won four medals, two silver and two bronze and Job won gold in the 50m backstroke.
The announcement comes as over 1400 of Queensland’s best swimmers converge on the Brisbane Aquatic Centre at Chandler this week for the 2020 Queensland State Swimming Championships – the first major long course meet conducted in Australia since COVID-19 forced the world into lockdown and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics.
The meet, which officially opens Australia’s summer of swimming towards a new Olympic year, will feature all four of the Rackley Swim Team’s Tokyo Olympic hopefuls, who will headline a Rackley team of 112 swimmers – the most of any club entered over the week-long championships, who will contest 470 events.
The Queensland State Championships will kick start tomorrow December 12 with relays and run through until December 18 at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre, Chandler with open events starting on Sunday, December 13.
The four athletes have said they are humbled and appreciative of the support and guidance when they swim and when they pursue new opportunities out of the pool.
Neill, 18, a four-time medallist at the 2019 Fina World Junior Championship winning silver in the 400m and 1500m and bronze over 400m and 4x200m freestyle relay, a World Junior record holder over 400m short course says it is an absolute privilege to be part of this new program alongside three top quality athletes in Townsend, Job and Buchanan.
“I’m excited to learn new things, not just in the water but out of the water – it is so important to get that swimming-life balance right this program will certainly help that, “said Neill.
“It’s difficult finding that balance between succeeding both in my Advanced Business studies at UQ University and swimming and also fitting in a social life.
“The Rackley organisation is an entire family and a community I guess and I’m just grateful to be part of it and to be leading it.”
Townsend, 22, a specialist 100m freestyler and part-time breaststroker, has already represented Australia at both Junior Pan Pacs and Fina World Long Course and Short Course Championships, getting a taste of international swimming at the highest levels.
“It’s actually pretty life changing for me I guess…coming from a point where I didn’t really have any support,” said Townsend.
“Swimming Australia always support you when you are on team but when you are not on team it’s just you and your coach – so being able to build a program where we can have various people to reach out to about different things it’s perfect to start building on.”
Job, 17, won gold in the 50m backstroke at the 2019 Junior World Championships, who has just completed Year 12 at Brisbane’s All Hallows School, said: “It is such a privilege to receive this scholarship. It’s amazing. We are so lucky and I’m the youngest person in the program and so I’m just so grateful to be part of it…and I’m really excited to kick it off and get everything behind me and for Rackleys to be supporting us…. and for them to hopefully support others as well.
“It is also a big weight off Mum and Dad’s shoulders – to have more people around me and supporting me; it is so good for everyone…”
Buchanan, at 25, has been coached by the experienced Shaun Crow, her coach for 20 years at the Hibiscus Leisure Centre, represented Australia at the 2016 and 2018 Fina World Short Course Championships where she won bronze for Australia in the 4x200m freestyle and 4x50m freestyle relays and she knows it will be a huge fillip with the Tokyo Olympic Trials in her sights next year.
“The main thing with this program, it’s going to help me continue on a little bit longer; I’d love to keep swimming and it will help me prolong my career and not having to go and get a job,” said Buchanan.
“It is a massive weight off my shoulders and not just the financial side of the program but learning about the other side of the business that can really help us; we can develop into completely different people…it’s amazing that CVM are willing to help us in so many different ways.”
Damien Jones, who coaches Neill, Job and Townsend, said it was five years ago when he first spoke to CVM CEO Reece Rackley about the game-changing scheme.
“We needed a scheme to give the swimmers the best opportunity to achieve all of their goals and allowing them to get physio, massage and go to a dietician for example without them having to wait tables on their recovery days,” said Jones.
“It is so exciting to get this scheme off the ground and see it in full swing – the athletes themselves can’t hide their excitement and gratitude.
“Its more than just the support too –this has morphed into leadership opportunities in the CVM business.
“It means they can focus purely on their swimming and not have to worry about anything else and it’s providing other avenues to improve them as people as well.
“The swimmers are the face of this program and they will front swim clinics which they all love doing in the school holiday period they are genuinely really excited about this opportunity.
“CVM will have ready made role models in their programs at all their sites and its time to tap in to them.
“I feel that this will enhance their performances in the pool and not just for the financial support.
“If you’ve got a team behind you pushing, helping you to achieve then this is going to be an unbelievable experience…anything is possible.”
Rackley said: “This scheme is about creating something that is more like a performance enabler – there was this gap in the market that we recognised and we wanted to fill that gap.
“And fill it with a program which enables our athletes to really take that next step and receive reward and recognition and create a platform, with various tiers so as athletes improve they can step up to the next level.
“It is designed to give our swimmers a little bit more of a reward for their achievements, their dedication and hard work and gives us a platform to be able to build their profiles and create further benefits for them in our business and the program that runs a long side of it.
“We are supporting our home grown talent which is a big part of what we are trying to do.”