Amaka Gessler was having a rare break from her regular schedule during the school holidays. She talked with The Pulse about the rollercoaster ride of being a competitive swimmer and her 'magic' swimsuit.
Freestyler Amaka Gessler is modest about her recent results at the Olympic swimming trails in Auckland.
“I’ve been going pretty well,” she says.
That’s an understatement - the 17-year-old won the open event's 50m butterfly, swimming a personal best in the process.
“It was quite a shock – I went into the competition ranked sixth.”
She also placed third in the 100m freestyle.
The win was a highlight in the meet, which was also tinged with frustration – she was disqualified from an event for the first time ever.
“It had to be the Olympic trials - apparently I rolled or something. I’m not too sure what I did.”
The disqualification was frustrating, but the meet itself was “unbelieveable”.
“It was my first ever New Zealand Open National swim meet. The Olympics (qualifying meet) was so serious – you either made it or you didn’t. The whole pool would be cheering for the people who were trying to qualify. It was awesome.”
The Burnside High School student is on a strict training regime, nine sessions a week, for two hours at a time.
“In the winter you do more long endurance stuff to build yourself up for the summer where you do more sprinting. We’re starting the whole gym work thing now. It’s cool.”
Gessler will swim in the Oceania Championships – her first international meet – in June. She is aiming to do her "absolute best" but doesn't have a specific goal time in mind.
“Everyone always says to set really tough goals – I find by setting a goal, you either achieve it or you don’t. I like to go into a competition saying I’m just going to do the absolute best I can do. Then if I do a PB I’m happy – even if I didn’t do a goal time. I’m still disappointed when I don’t do well, but I try to do the absolute best I can.”
Gessler's parents recently bought her a “magic” swimsuit – worth over five-hundred dollars.
“It was for my birthday and Christmas and my next birthday. The first race I wore it I won – it was unbelievable. From then on everyone called it my magic suit.”
The suit is full body, apart from the arms, and Gessler describes it as “incredible”, despite being super tight.
“You see the seams indented in your skin for hours afterwards. But the latest suits engage your core all the time so you’re always in optimum position for swimming.”
“The reason they’re so good is because when you swim your skin wobbles a lot – it’s just how we are. The suit compresses it so you don’t wobble as much.”
Gessler is thankful to her parents for supporting her in her efforts.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”
Swimming was a natural choice, she says.
“My [sister] came home with these medals and I was like, that’s it - I want to swim. I suppose I just love the water. Even though people say it must be horrible just swimming up and down, and sometimes it is very monotonous, I love the feeling.”
The sport consumes most of her time and her goals are the Olympics and beyond.
“I used to do a lot more – I wanted to take up fencing – maybe one day. I want to try to reach for the stars.”