Waking up at 4.30 every morning would be seem like a nightmare for most. But for fifteen-year-old Emma Handley, it’s reality.
Handley spends up to four hours in the water every day to maintain her standing as one of Australia’s brightest up-and-coming swimming superstars. She loves breaststroke and loathes freestyle, placing an astounding fourth in the 200m breaststroke at the Nationals when she 14. This year she picked up two silver medals, beaten by just under a second.
Handley started swimming at the tender age of five, after watching her sister complete her swimming lessons. The young swimmer still enjoys her sport, which she says relaxes her. “I calm down a lot when I swim,” she explains. “It makes me happy.”
Handley does admit, however, that training takes a lot of effort and time: “the worst thing would be the commitment… It’s eighteen to twenty hours in the water. It’s just so much. You get so little sleep, and you’re always tired. And you get grumpy really easy.”
Balancing her life poses another issue. Citing a popular meme that asks swimmers to choose two out of “school, social life, swimming and work”, Handley says it sums up a swimmer’s lifestyle choices and decisions. “You kinda have to give up your social life,” she admits. “It is possible to do your school and your swimming, as long you just don’t get distracted too easily.”
Handley credits her achievements to hard work and the testimonials she’s heard from other athletes; she makes sure to attend all the sessions she can, including the difficult ones.
With her outstanding credentials, you’d assume that Handley will be heading towards the Olympics soon but the young swimmer says it’s never been her main priority. “Of course the dream is to go to the Olympics but [I] just go with the flow. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”
Guaranteed to make a splash in the water, Handley has some tips of her own for aspiring swimmers: “Don’t take any shortcuts,” she advises. “If you are going to do something, then do it properly. Do it right.”