Amaka Gessler is an 18-year-old Burnside High student, living in Bryndwr where she flats with her sister and two others. She moved from Motueka to Christchurch in 2006 to train at AquaGym Swim Club so she could advance her swimming career.
Living away from her parents and other siblings requires independence and maturity - she juggles swimming, study, cooking, budgeting and generally looks after herself. Amaka trains nine times per week in the national squad with coach Alastair Johnson. She regularly attends swim meets around New Zealand. Read an interview about her Olympic trial swim meet.
Christchurch swimmer Amaka Gessler will represent New Zealand at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Guam from 8 – 11 January 2009. The selection follows Olympic trials earlier this year where Gessler achieved a first and a third, but missed selection by a very narrow margin.
The competition is very important to me, as it will allow me the opportunity to gain international experience
"My selection for the Championships was a result of the hard work and effort that I have put into my training over the last couple of years. I left my home in Nelson Marlborough two years ago so that I could flat in Christchurch where the sport of swimming was more competitive.
Gessler says the AquaGym Swim Club has helped her achieve her goals, and is "a leader in the swimming community".
[AquaGym has] delivered Olympic and Commonwealth medallists, world record holders, multiple New Zealand and Canterbury champions and record holders at all ages.
She competes in the 50 metre, 100 metre and 200 metre freestyle events.
Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) has also awarded Amaka a two-year scholarship to attend the International Training Centre in Auckland under head coach Thomas Ansorg. Whilst the training is paid for, Amaka will be required to meet all living costs.
Nineteen swimmers were selected to represent New Zealand at the Junior Pan Pacific meet - along with Gessler, just three other swimmers are from the South Island - two from Otago and one from Ashburton.
Gessler was also nominated for the Junior Female award at the 2008 Canterbury Sportsperson of the Year Awards Dinner which is the annual fundraising event of the Sir Richard Hadlee Sports Trust.
Gessler is aiming high, and says she has "big dreams" for her swimming career.
I plan to make the next Commonwealth Games and 2012 Olympics. I know I have the determination and dedication to get there. I also strive for excellence in all aspects of my life including my education. I am attending my last year at Burnside High School and have been selected into the Bachelor of Design with Honours program, which I intend to start next year whilst continuing to swim competitively.
Gessler started swimming competitively at eight, with the Wanaka Swimming Club. At age nine she received a national silver in the 50 butterfly at Swim New Zealand Junior Champs. She transferred to the Nelson Swimming Club when she was ten and again qualified for the SNZ Junior Championship and won a national silver for the 50m fly and a national bronze for the 100 Breaststroke.
She won her next national medal at age 15, when she was placed third in the 50m freestyle. At this stage she was part of the Motueka Swimming Club as the family had moved to the Motueka Valley to set up a winery. At 16 she moved to AquaGym Swim Club and competed in the SNZ National Age Group meet winning a silver for the 50m and 100m freestyle and a bronze in the 200m freestyle.