KZN teen takes on best

2014-08-18 00:00

MANY athletes wait years for a chance to compete against the best at tournaments like the Commonwealth Games.

However, the hard work and dedication of 15-year-old swimmer Erin Gallagher, who is a pupil at St Mary’s DSG, saw her represent South Africa at the Commonwealth Games in Scotland last month.

Although she didn’t come home with any medals, Gallagher thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to swim at the prestigious competition.

The Kloof resident competed in the 100 metre freestyle, both individually and in the women’s relay team. She also swam in the 100 metre medley relay team as well as the 200 metre freestyle relay.

Gallagher went into the Games looking to learn and improve her own performances, although a medal would have been a dream come true. Soaking up as much as she could, she was blown away by the number of spectators at the event.

“During the evenings, the crowd really carried us, it was really mind-blowing. It was so motivating to hear them while you were swimming,” Gallagher said. That might have had an effect on her performance, which was the best of her career so far.

“I was happy that I beat my personal best in the 100 metre freestyle. I didn’t expect to make the semis and I nearly made it into the final and only realised I had missed qualifying by just a few split seconds,” Gallagher said.

She also formed part of a very competitive women’s relay team that came sixth in the 100 metre freestyle final. Unfortunately the team were disqualified in the 100 metre medley final.

“It was our last race and I think we may have just lost a bit of focus. One of our team-mates just dived in early, but sometimes that happens, we didn’t hold it against her,” she said.

Outside of the pool, Gallagher enjoyed the opportunity to rub shoulders with the likes of Usain Bolt at the games and got along well with swimmers from other countries.

“Everyone was super friendly. We stayed at a village so I met some of the Australian swimmers and England divers, it was really cool.”

Making those friends is important seeing as Gallagher has her eyes set on competing at the Olympics in the years to come. However, her next challenge is competing at the World Short Course championships at the end of the year.

The young swimmer has a burning desire to swim against and potentially beat the best swimmers in the world. The end result would be a medal hanging around her neck.

“To win a medal, whether it’s gold, silver or bronze, will be the cherry on top for me. I think every swimmer aims for that,” she said.

It is hard to believe Gallagher is only 15 years old and has already achieved so much. Despite that, she is a down to earth and hard-working teenager. She will be one to watch in the future.

Erin Gallagher (15, centre) is welcomed back to Durban from the Commonwealth Games by school friends Alex Bosman (15, left) and Robyn Glennie (16).

PHOTO: Matthew Middleton

Gallagher is trained by Team South Africa’s swimming coach Graham Hill. She trains six days a week, twice a day, with each session around six kilometres. She only has one or two weeks’ break from swimming every year.

The youngest of three sisters, Gallagher was born and raised in Kloof. She attended Kloof Junior and Senior Primary before joining St Mary’s in 2012. However her journey in the pool started long ago.

“I started swimming when I was five. My mom just wanted me to be water safe at first.”

It didn’t take long for Gallagher to realise that she loved the sport but it was only a few years ago that she decided she wanted to take it to the next level.

“There were a couple of girls in my school that were swimming in galas. I was really competitive and I wanted to compete. After I registered with KZN Swimming, I started swimming galas and winning races,” she said.

“Believe in yourself and make sure you have a passion for the sport. Remember that you are swimming for yourself and no one else.”

“I like camping and water skiing and I also like to play Playstation games.”

“My parents are nothing but supportive. A lot of other parents put so much pressure on their kids and I am glad my parents aren’t like that. When I am at home we don’t speak about swimming that often. That’s great because I spend so much time in the pool, it’s nice to get away from it.”

“Guys like Chad le Clos are so encouraging. All of them are really friendly and easy to talk to. I think that Chad has set the bar really high and we are all aiming to meet that.”


During the evenings, the crowd really carried us, it was really mind-blowing. It was so motivating to hear them while you were swimming

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