Swimming: Family effort to reach top

The Trembaths relax at their Fairfield home. Parents Dennis and Margaret (seated) are joined by...
The Trembaths relax at their Fairfield home. Parents Dennis and Margaret (seated) are joined by children (from left) Hamish, Andrew, and Michael. Photo by Linda Robertson.

Promising Otago athlete Andrew Trembath has the backing of his family in his bid to become an Olympic swimmer.

The 17-year-old backstroker gets his first taste of international pool swimming at the Junior Pan-Pacific Championships in Hawaii next month, after which he travels to France for the world surf life-saving championships.

Behind the scenes, it is family support that is helping Trembath get to the top.

Life in the family home at Fairfield revolves around his swimming. It includes his parents rising at 4.15am to get him to Moana Pool for a training session with coach Gennadiy Labara.

''We've hooked up with another family that lives around the road, so we take turns,'' mother Margaret said.

Father Dennis takes Andrew to the pool in the winter, and Margaret, who works at the Contact Energy customer service department, does the job in summer.

During the school term, Andrew has breakfast at Moana Pool before walking across the road to Otago Boys' High School.

''At other times, we come home and go back to bed and pick him up after the 2hr 30min training session,'' Margaret said.

There are other drop-off duties for the parents and elder brother Michael, as Andrew has physiotherapy and massage sessions.

Andrew's influence is also felt around the meal table. He has a nutritionist as part of his training team, and tells his mother what he has to eat.

Badminton was Margaret's sport when she was growing up in Christchurch. She is proud of her boys.

''They work hard. It is not difficult to look after them. They help out around the place. You just have to be organised.''

The family finances are also affected by Andrew's swimming. It will cost $8000 for the surf life-saving trip to France, and another $6000 for the trip to Hawaii.

Meeting the cost has been helped by the Skeggs Foundation and other sponsors, and by Andrew working in his school holidays, but his parents have a hefty bill.

Andrew's day revolves around swimming training and school.

''I get up early and don't see much of the family until I'm home at night and it's close to bedtime then,'' he said. His alarm clock rings at 4.15am. He starts his 2hr 30min morning session at 5am, and spends the rest of the day at school before starting a 2hr session at 4pm. He is in bed by 8.30pm.

Like all elite athletes, Andrew has to be organised to complete all his school work.

''I try to get my homework done in study periods. But for the NCEA exams at the end of the year, my major competitions will be over and I will be able to ease off training and focus on my studies.''

He appreciates the support given by his family.

''It's good to have them there to help me out when I need it,'' he said.

The Trembaths' home in Avondale was wrecked by the Christchurch earthquake, and the family shifted to Dunedin because of Andrew's swimming.

He joined Labara's elite squad and the rest is history.

''It was a great move for me,'' Andrew said.

''My sport's taken off since I've come to Dunedin.''

The sporting inspiration for Andrew and the rest of the family has come from father Dennis, who played for the Junior Kiwis rugby league team and professionally in England and France.

He was also talented at rugby. He played for the second-tier Canterbury team and had more than 100 premier games for the strong High School Old Boys club.

In a third, rather unusual, sport, Dennis was a member of the New Zealand bobsled team for four years, from 1988 to 1992, when he was playing rugby league in England, and competed in five world cups each year. He also competed in skeleton racing.

Dennis, a beverage technician at Speight's Breweries, is proud of his family.

''Not often do you get a son who makes New Zealand teams in two sports in the same year,'' he said.

''I'm proud of all my boys and my wife. We are all involved with surf life-saving and all the boys work hard in their own fields.''

Michael (19), a food science and marketing student at the University of Otago, teaches swimming at Moana Pool and competes in surf life-saving for the St Clair club.

He has won a bronze medal in the teams event at national championships and individual medals at the South Island championships.

Hamish (15), a pupil at Otago Boys' High School, also competes in surf life-saving with the St Clair Club and plays hockey at school.

Andrew has the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in his sights. If he makes it, his parents will travel to Brazil to see him compete.

''That would be a dream come true,'' Dennis said.

''It's two years down the track and he still has the hard yards to do. Andrew's pretty switched on and has his long and short-term goals in swimming, surf life-saving and study at school.''


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