Omarama swimmers Alana (left) and Danni Walsh spend eight hours a week just travelling to Oamaru to train. Photo by David Bruce.
Three times a week, 11-year-old Danni Walsh spends eight
hours travelling from Omarama to Oamaru for four to five
hours' swimming training.
The commitment by her family to her sport, not uncommon for
those who live in remote rural areas, has really paid off
with Danni qualifying to swim in seven events this weekend at
the New Zealand junior championships in Wellington.
That follows success in the recent Otago championships in
Dunedin when she won seven gold and two silver medals and the
top points in the girls' 10 to 11-year-old age-group.
For her mother, Michelle, the commitment of travelling up to
720km a week just for training - not taking into account the
distances for competition - is well worth it. She has the
trips each week organised to a tee.
Danni's sister Alana (10) has also started swimming
competitively, Dominic (6) is starting and Lillie (4) is
waiting for her chance.
Mrs Walsh admits the exercise is costly, but worth it when
the family sees the two girls committed and excelling at
their chosen sport.
"All that effort has been worth it, with Danni now qualified
for five events and two relays at the New Zealand juniors,"
Mrs Walsh said.
Children from small, remote country towns can compete and
perform well against their city counterparts.
"It does take a lot of time and effort to do it, but it is
possible," she said.
Oamaru's Waitaki Aquatic Centre covered swimming complex
provides training all year round.
"The Wanaka and Cromwell pools are a bit closer (to Omarama),
but trying to negotiate the Lindis Pass in winter wouldn't be
pleasant," she said.
Danni started swimming competitively about two years ago,
encouraged by her success in the Omarama School's swimming
She joined the Oamaru Swimming Club, specialising in
breaststroke but is now moving on to other strokes.
Initially, that meant training in Oamaru twice a week, but is
now more frequent as she has improved.
At the national junior championships she has qualified for
the 200m freestyle, 200m individual medley and 50m, 100m and
200m breaststroke. In addition she will be swimming in two
relays for Eastern Districts, which includes the Oamaru area.
To get to training means leaving Omarama straight after
school for the 120km journey, which can take up to an hour
On the days her daughters are training, Mrs Walsh prepares
tea for all the children and puts it in a thermos. If the
younger children are travelling, too, they have their meal on
the way down and Danni and Alana on the way back after
"It's just a matter of being prepared," Mrs Walsh said.
They usually get back home about 8pm to 8.30pm. The trip is
made three times a week in summer during the busiest part of
the swimming season and twice a week in winter.
"It is costly and takes a lot of time and effort, but worth
it," Mrs Walsh said.
Home town: Omarama
Distance travelled weekly: 720km