People and Places
02/09/2021
Going for gold at Yawa
by Mornington Peninsula Magazine

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Samantha Purvis

“It’s quite an artform teaching kids swimming technique,” says dual Olympian Samantha Purvis. “I would like to pass on as much information as I can to make their journey in the sport the best it can be.”

Samantha was appointed to the Flyers Swimming Club Mornington Peninsula coaching team in July as lead coach and will be based at Yawa Aquatic Centre in Rosebud. “All my life I’ve swum,” she says. “Coaching is the next best thing if you’re not in the water, and being with the kids keeps you young. I enjoy that.”

Samantha brings a wealth of experience to the job, having worked for more than 25 years as a coach at national and state levels across all age groups from juniors to older athletes. Before coaching, Samantha had an international swimming career many young and dedicated swimmers dream of, including competing at two Olympic Games. Reaching Olympic level almost didn’t happen, though.

Going for gold at Yawa

Flyers Swimming Club Mornington Peninsula

Born in England, Samantha’s family travelled to Australia and New Zealand when she was a child for her father’s work. She learnt to swim in New Zealand, and at age nine the family moved to Perth for two years where she continued swimming. They would have happily stayed except extended family called them home to England.

Back home, Samantha joined a swimming squad. “I was good technically but the other swimmers were all so fit I couldn’t keep up. I was ready to quit. My coach said, ‘You’re too good; don’t give up’. My coach, Fred Hall, had a huge influence on me. He was very disciplined about technique – firm but fair. Fred took me to a senior level, then when I was 15 he said, ‘I’ve taken you as far as I can’, which really upset me. He said, ‘You have to go to a bigger club’. Not all coaches would have done that, but Fred knew his limitations and the pool we trained in was only 25m. I didn’t understand at the time but it was a fantastic thing he did for me.”

Samantha was only 16 the first time she competed at the Olympics, representing Great Britain in 1984 and finishing fifth in the final of the 200m butterfly. Then in 1992 Samantha competed at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, captaining the team and making the finals of her event; she was also a medallist at the 1986 and 1990 Commonwealth Games.

A highlight of Samantha’s swimming career was meeting and competing against her idol, US butterfly superstar Mary T. Meagher – aka Madame Butterfly – at the 1984 Olympics. “Then in 1985 we went to the nationals in Arkansas and I was in the final in the lane next to Mary. Mary won and at the end of the race she turned to me and said, ‘That was a great race, Sam’. I couldn’t believe it.”

To aspiring Olympic swimming champs, Samantha’s advice is: “If you really want it, you have to commit. Create such a strong training routine for yourself (that) it’s not an option to not go. On the days you don’t feel like training, just think, ‘My competition will be getting out of bed’. And focus on your technique; you need it to be the best it can be. Thrashing up and down the pool can come later.”

For more information about joining the Flyers swim team at Yawa, email registrar@peninsulaflyers.org.au

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