Olympian awards juniors with Wright stuff

Fraser Coast Chronicle, 9th March 2016, written by Matthew McInerney, Sports Journalist

IT WAS not long ago a young Melanie Schlanger sunk against much faster Wide Bay Regional Swimming Championship competitors.

"I was rubbish," she said.

"I was 14 when I started and most girls were faster than me so I'd usually come last in my races.

"It took a few years to catch up to the girls and start winning some medals. By no means was I at gun at all."

The now-married Nambour-born Melanie Wright was a special guest at Hervey Bay Aquatic Centre, but it was more of a trip down memory lane for the two-time Olympian.

"I walked through the gates and a flood of memories came to me," she said.

"This was my childhood, so to revisit that and see the kids living what I went through where all those fun times and friendships are made, it's what it's all about.

"There is the elite level of sport but this is where it starts, the foundation." 

Wright's purpose was to not only see the next generation in action, but to unveil two major contributions to Wide Bay Regional Swimming Association.

The 29-year-old has lent her name to a participation medal, which is open only to swimmers who compete in all four strokes.

She has also donated a perpetual trophy for the best 100m freestyle competitor in the open division, with Kayle McKeown (Pelican Waters Caloundra) the inaugural winner.

"It's to encourage the next crop of 100m freestylers in the region," she said.

"It's my main event so it's a little bit of a bursary and a trophy. Hopefully we can see another Wide Bay athlete at the Olympics in the next few years for the 100m free."

The Olympic Games is the pinnacle, and Wright's focus will be on the Australian swimming trials.

A recent injury means she may be slightly behind the pace, but she said she would do all she can to book her place in the squad for Rio.

"I'm hoping that it (the injury) will clear up by trials and I'll be on the blocks again," she said.

"We'll see (how it goes), it depends on my recovery. I'll stay positive and I can only do what I do."

Wright's message for the junior swimmers was to ensure they enjoyed carnivals, but warned to not use them as a marker of ability.

"I think these carnivals are great fun, and that's what they should be, but they're by no means a marker of what you're capable of," Wright said. "Whether you're winning or coming last, things can change.

"It's about enjoying the sport, setting goals, working hard and seeing where it takes you and I think it's possible to get to the top whether you're winning medals or coming last." 

Photo of Melanie with 9yr girls

 

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