Wed, Nov 17, 2021 6:11 AM

Abbey conquers fears and competition

Abbey Smale has been nominated for Nelson Junior Sportswoman of the Year. Photo: Jonty Dine

Jonty Dine

As a national champion sea swimmer, it may be surprising to learn that Abbey Smale has a strong fear of open water.

The 18-year-old says she hates the feeling of not knowing what is beneath her.

“My dad comes to all the sea swims, and I have to ask him about five times that nothing will get me.”

The Garin College student has enjoyed a stellar season in the water, culminating in her being nominated for Nelson Junior Sportswoman of the Year.

“It is pretty cool. It’s a really big honour to be recognised for something you put so much time and dedication into.”

Abbey’s nomination is essentially a two-in-one on the back of her success in both pool and open water swimming, the latter of which she considers her strength.

Beginning in December 2020, Abbey competed in six NZ Ocean Swim Series races, winning all six in age group and open women.

Just a few weeks later she was competing in the New Zealand Open Water Champs in Taupō, winning her age group in both the 5km and 10km races.

Unfortunately, her stellar season was cut short.

“Everything was going well and then lockdown happened, which was disappointing.”

Abbey adapted her training but struggled with the monotony.

“I swum in my home pool on a bungee for up to an hour, it was a bit boring.”

Her commitment to swimming sees her at the pool by 5am, six mornings a week.

“Towards the end of week, it can get quite hard to not click snooze.”

Despite the intense training regimen, Abbey says her motivation doesn’t wane.

“It’s my passion, I want to be good and in order to be good you have to turn up every morning.”

Abbey’s swimming career began at just three-years-old, and she began racing at ten.

“I just fell in love with it.”

Abbey has accumulated a mass of medals during her career which are proudly displayed on a piece of driftwood in her family home.

However, the sheer number is seriously straining the wood, with visitors worried it’s about to cave in.

Abbey is also helping to mold future generations of swimmers as a coach at ‘Learn to Swim’ at the Richmond Aquatic Centre.

“I absolutely love it and it reminds me of why I swim, seeing the joy on kids’ faces when they learn something new, and its so rewarding to give back what I have learned.”

Next year will see Abbey move to University of Canterbury where she will study for a Bachelor of Sport in coaching and join the Jazzy Jelly Swim Club.

“I just want to see how far I can go and, hopefully, get rewards from just being in love with the sport.”

The Nelson Sports Awards will be announced via live stream on December 3.