Australia’s upcoming Olympic Trials slated for April 7th-14th are some of the world’s most anticipated, as the nation’s athletes earned multiple world titles at last year’s World Championships, have been steadily moving up the world rankings, and are generally re-establishing themselves as a potential gold medal powerhouse for Rio.
Among the mix of female sprinters competing for a spot on the Dolphins’ Olympic roster will be 29-year-old Melanie Wright, an accomplished swimmer who is looking to make her final Games push.
Wright has already made a name for herself, anchoring the Australian 4 x 100m relay team in London, where her incredible 52.65 split contributed to her squad’s Olympic Record and gold medal (3:33.15). Wright was also a member of the Australian 4 x 200m freestyle relay in Beijing in 2008.
But, in light of her age and what it takes to train for the 200m freestyle, the Southport Olympic team member says she is choosing to focus only on the shorter sprint freestyle events. “I’ve given up the 200. I’m getting a bit older and I don’t recover as well as I used to. To manage training for the 200 and the 100 (is too difficult),” she said.
Recovery is especially important for Wright, as the star suffered two rib injuries throughout her career. One took place in 2013, which forced her to pull out of the Barcelona World Championships, and then another occurred in 2014. The latter threatened Wright’s Commonwealth Games’ participation and even had her considering retirement.
“I almost walked away from the sport in 2014 and this year was always going to be a bit of a bonus and whatever is going to happen is going to happen”, she tells the Gold Coast Bulletin. Wright’s rib injury was described as “possibly a stress fracture” that healed before causing “bizarre” muscle weakness and pain.
From her perspective, Wright says the injury itself is “quite interesting from a science point of view but something that I’d prefer not to be happening to me.”
Aiming for individual roster spots in the 50m freestyle and 100m freestyle events, Wright says, “All you can do is your best and I’m certainly giving it my best and whatever that result gives me in three weeks’ time I’m going to be happy with because I know that that’s all I have at this point. It’s unfortunate that I have to be ready for these trials.”
“I can only do what I can do and I will be getting on the blocks in the blocks in the best possible shape I can be. And if that doesn’t work out, then I’m quite happy with what I’ve done in my career and it’s a good place to be, I’m excited by the future as well.”
With the Trials just 3 weeks away, Wright laments she doesn’t have more time to prepare her body. “By August I know I’d be fine but that’s not the way that swimming works. I’m glad about that, that’s always been the case … black and white, you’re either on at the trials or not. Sometimes it works in your favour and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Interestingly, the Australian Selection Criteria for Rio does include a ‘extenuating circumstances’ clause, should Wright, or any other athlete not perform at his/her best in Adelaide. As such, the description of ‘black and white’ is actually black-gray-white. The clause is included at the bottom of this post.
Having recently graduated from Bond University with an MBA (with high distinction), Wright recognizes that, besides just swimming, “There’s so much more to life and I’m really excited about those things. To start a career in medicine and I’m 30 this year, so I’m looking to have a family in the next couple of years as well. Those kind of things probably excite me just as much as going to the Olympics.” (Gold Coast Bulletin)
“If I have to give up one for the other, that’s OK and I’m pretty at ease with whatever happens and I think that’s a pretty good place to be,” she concludes.
Excerpt from 2016 AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC TEAM, SWIMMING AUSTRALIA LTD, NOMINATION CRITERIA – SWIMMING
This clause will only apply in determining whether an Athlete has met the criteria imposed by SAL pursuant to clause 2.
(1) In considering the performances of Athletes at events required under clause 2 of this
(2) For the purposes of this clause 3, “extenuating circumstances” means an inability to compete
(3) Athletes unable to compete at events required under this Nomination Criteria must advise the
Nomination Criteria the General Manager, Performance in consultation with the National Head Coach at their absolute discretion, may recommend to the National Selectors that they give weight to extenuating circumstances. and/or attend events arising from:
(a) injury or illness;
(b) equipment failure (where applicable);
(c) travel delays;
(d) bereavement or disability arising from death or serious illness of an immediate family member; and/or
(e) any other factors reasonably considered by the General Manager, Performance in consultation with the National Head Coach at their absolute discretion, may recommend to the National Selectors to constitute extenuating circumstances.
Athletes unable to compete at events required under this Nomination Criteria must advise the SAL General Manager, Performance in writing of this fact and the reasons before the commencement of the events required under this Nomination Criteria.
(4) In the case of illness or injury, Athletes will be required to undergo a medical examination by
A decision in each case of extenuating circumstances will be made by the SAL National Selectors on an individual basis. Any such decision will not be binding on the AOC.