Chelsey Edwards (Chilton St James) making a splash

Hours of preparation and constant dedication can be over in a couple of minutes when put into practice.

Countless laps in training can come down to just four in competition for Chelsey Edwards when she competes in the 200m freestyle, one of her specialist events.

This August Chelsey was in the Aqua Blacks team at the FINA World Championships in South Korea, where she was part of the 4 x 200m Freestyle team that qualified for the 2020 Olympics in Japan next July and August.

Chelsey swam the third leg that helped the team come 10th overcall and book its Olympics berth. But that doesn’t mean her spot for Tokyo 2020 is assured, as she explains:

“I am training right now for the New Zealand Open Championships at the end of March next year, which is the Olympic trials. I will have a few small competitions between now and then but that is what I am aiming for at the moment.

“Finishing inside the top 12 meant that we secured New Zealand a spot for the relay team for Tokyo, but that didn’t secure me a spot personally and I need to finish inside the top 4 at the NZ Open Champs.”

The 200m freestyle is her main focus, but she also competes at an elite level in the 50m freestyle. An event where everything needs to come together at once.

“It is only a 25 second race and it is over just like that so you can’t afford to get anything wrong.”

At this year’s New Zealand Open Championships, Chelsey won gold in the 50m freestyle and bronze in the 200m freestyle, among an overall haul of several medals. She also won a hat full of medals at the New Zealand Short Course Championships, including gold in the 50m and 100m freestyle.

That Open Championships qualifying meet was a highlight for Chelsey this year.

“I got my first national title and considering I had just turned 18 at the time and competing against older swimmers that was really good for me. Later in the week in the 200m freestyle I got a personal best in the morning and then another that afternoon and I hadn’t improved on that time in a year. The next day I found out I was going to Worlds.”

Instead of having a bit of downtime, it was straight back into the pool for a heavy block of training heading into the South Korea world event, but it was worth it.

“It was exciting, something I have never experienced before. I had watched all those awesome swimmers on YouTube but I was now rubbing shoulders with them on the pool deck so that was pretty cool.”

Last Sunday the Chilton St James School year 13 student’s hard work and success was rewarded with her winning the Supreme Award at the College Sport Wellington SPOTYs dinner.

“I wasn’t expecting the overall award at all,” she said. “I knew the other girls nominated for the swimming award and that is kind of all I thought about, and then it got to the end of the night and it was a good surprise. Then when they started doing the ceremony song at the end that was awesome as well.”

It has also a memorable year for Chelsey at the regional and school level.

Competing for her school at the NZSS Swimming Championships, she won a hatful of freestyle and butterfly golds.

At the College Sport Wellington Championships she won gold in the 50m, 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle races and gold in the 50m and 100m butterfly, winning the Prue Young Memorial Cup for the fastest female sprinter for the fifth year in a row and breaking six long-standing Wellington age-grade records.

As well as sitting two NCEA level 3 exams this month, she is currently training hard with the Capital Swim Club at Freyberg and Kilbirnie pools under head coach Gary Hollywood, and alongside other elite swimmers such as 2017’s SPOTYS boys supreme winner Lewis Clareburt (ex Scots College).

The squad trains in the water 10 times a week. Sunday is her day off but she goes to the gym on Sunday nights. Nutrition and clean eating is also a big part of the elite swimmers’ lifestyle and Chelsey’s diet is no different.

Chelsey has been swimming competitively since she was seven. When she was 12 she won seven medals at the New Zealand Age Group Championships which helped set her on her way. She used to play other sports like netball.

“But they didn’t last too long, swimming took over everything and it has been swimming the whole time since.”