Published Saturday 16 August 2014

NANJING, Aug 15 - When New Zealand Youth Olympic Team Flag Bearer Gabrielle FA'AMAUSILI (NZL) dives into the pool at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, she will do so knowing her sport nearly killed her.

She was just four years old when a swimming lesson in her hometown of Auckland almost ended tragically.

“I was actually doing backstroke, my best stroke. The instructor was watching me, but then she kind of took her eye off me, and I started going under. I couldn't breathe, so my mum had to pull me out,” FA’AMAUSILI said.

There are two common ways to deal with fear. You can avoid the thing that causes it at all costs, which she tried for a couple of years, or you can confront it head on. Her mum decided the second option was the best.

“I didn’t go back until I was six. But my mum wanted me to learn how to swim properly so it wouldn't happen again.”

Despite being so young, Gabrielle Fa'amausili has been tipped for big things

FA’AMAUSILI, now 14, is more than just an athlete who competes in a sport that once terrified her. She comes to Nanjing 2014 with impressive credentials.

She is world junior record holder in the 50m backstroke, in which she also won a gold medal at the 2013 World Junior Swimming Championships.

She is also one of the youngest athletes in Nanjing, being old enough to compete by just two-and-a-half months.

Her coach, Josh MUNRO (NZL), says her ability is rare for someone so young.

“She has a natural power and speed in the water. She works really hard to maintain that and get better,” he said.

“Pretty much the world is the limit. Her goal is to get a [Youth] Olympic medal and even go to Rio [for the 2016 Olympic Games]. The future is bright as long as she can keep focused.”

FA'AMAUSILI is scheduled to compete in the 50m and 100m backstroke and freestyle events, as well as two relays at the Nanjing 2014 Games.

Fa'amausili was named Flag Bearer at a ceremony in Nanjing, China yesterday. Tonight she will lead the New Zealand team into the a 60,000 capacity stadium as the Youth Olympic Games get underway. 

YIS rgb/sg/tb