2021 was not an easy year for Australian swimmer Lani Pallister. She even described it as “the worst year of her life,” as she struggled through an eating disorder, underwent heart surgery, had mono during Olympic trials, and ultimately failed to make Australia’s Tokyo Olympic team. In fact, due to all her health struggles, she had to be out of the water for four months.
Flash forward a year later, and she has finished the season as one of the best mid-distance freestylers in the world.
Even after an incredible bounce-back year, which consisted of World Championship and Commonwealth Games medals, Australian records, and best times in the 200/400/800/1500 free for the first time in three years, Pallister still wants to get better. And with a newfound love for the sport, her eyes are set on the future.
“I don’t believe at this point that I have limits, like I’m just excited to race because I’ve finally found my love for it again, Pallister told SwimSwam. “I am just enjoying getting in [the pool] and just doing it rather than it being stressful. That also comes from confidence in the work I’ve done and the people in my corner.”
Pallister opened her summer with the 2022 World Championships, which was her first-ever senior international meet. There, she took bronze in the 1500 free (15:48.96), placed fourth in the 400 free (4:02.16), and earned a silver medal for her participation in the heats in the 4×200 free relay. She also made the final in the 800 free, but was forced to withdraw because she was diagnosed with COVID-19 following prelims of the race.
And while Pallister says she “can’t be too disappointed” with her Worlds results and believes they are a “huge step forward”, she admits that she’s still not completely satisfied.
“I find hard to be content,” Pallister said of her swimming. “I’ve watched my races over and over and know exactly where I can improve and implement changes. I don’t think I’ve put together the best race I can yet for the 400/800 or 1500, so for what the year has been and what I’ve achieved, I am happy.”
Largely due to experiencing COVID-19 this summer, Pallister thinks she can be faster than the times she put up this summer. The effects of COVID were evident especially during the Commonwealth Games, where she was nearly two seconds off her season-bests in both the 400 and 800 free. However, she still managed to earn a bronze in the latter event.
“I know I’m capable of SO much more than the times I’ve swum, and COVID played a big part of that,” Pallister said. “I really wanted to use this year as a base and start to get a feel for senior international racing.”
Pallister was able to get back into the groove of things post-COVID, as she went on to participate in the Duel in the Pool competition and the Australian Short Course Championships. At short course champs, she broke Australian records in the short course 800 free (8:07.37) and 1500 free (15:24.63) to earn a spot on her country’s team for the 2022 Short Course World Championships in December, which will be her next competition.
After being out of the water for so long last year and only training for 4-5 months prior to Australian trials this May, Pallister is excited to have a full 12 months of training for the first time in a while. For now though, she’s taking a two week break from swimming, and won’t get back into the water until September 12th. Part of this decision was made because her coach, Michael Bohl, told her to take time off.
“15 weeks from trials to now is a huge block that I didn’t know how to deal with because I hadn’t done it before,” Pallister said. “So experience has been crazy and my immune system post-COVID definitely needs a break.”
Pallister believes that two weeks is the right amount of time off for her, as it is “plenty to now train up again until December without feeling burnout or feeling like [she’s] overdoing it”. However, after her break, she’s eager to come back to practice.
“I’m keen to jump back into a heavy work load again,” Pallister said. “For me especially, I adore racing and love training equally. There is something so rewarding about pushing yourself to the limit daily.”
“Going into 2023 and 2024, this year will be a solid base rather than it being so stop-start for me like 2020 and 2021 were.” Pallister added.
So, what was the main takeaway from SwimSwam’s conversation with Pallister? Well, what she wants us to know is that she’s just getting started.
“I think the main thing I’m trying to say is that this is really the beginning of my career,” Pallister said. “I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon and I have so much desire to become bigger, better, faster, and stronger. In the next 8 years, I want to do something special with my swimming and do it for me and really see where I can take it.”
“I LOVE the grind and don’t want to put any excess pressure on myself to be a certain time by a certain date. The group I am training in is incredible, so be able to train in and out with the best to then be able to race the best is honestly a dream come true.”