Tips & Advice

#Iamspeedofit: Emily Gray


When and how did you start swimming?
I started swimming in 2003, after my amputation my dad encourage me to go check out Mandeville, which is a sports club for the physically disabled in Johannesburg. I tried out a couple of different sports but it was swimming which I really grew to love the most.

When did you first notice that you were a talented swimmer?
I was actually a terrible swimmer as a child but through continued training and great coaching at Mandeville I began to understand how to grip the water and I begun moving more effectively in the water. Learning how to balance in the water was also a challenge, as having one leg causes unequal buoyancy.

What impact has swimming had on your life?
Swimming has been monumental in my life, I couldn’t image my life with out swimming. After Cancer, chemo and an amputation at 11 years old it really takes a knock on your confidence and your self belief. Swimming gave me the opportunity to gain everything I thought I had lost from cancer. When I swim I feel as if my “disability” subsides while I leave my crutches lying on the side of the pool deck. When I first started swimming I would wear shorts over speedo because I was so embarrassed about the way my stump looked… Swimming made me realize that my disability doesn’t define who I am or who I’m going to be. Swimming also was my escape and that meditative feeling of the water washing over your head while feeling total weightless really helped me deal with everything that was happening at that time of my life.

How often do you train?
I swim 8 sessions per week for 2hours each session, gym 2 times and do pilates 3 times per week both for about 1 hour.

Who do you train with?
I train at Tuks, with Emile Du Bruin as my coach.

What are your favourite strokes and why?
Freestyle! I feel most natural when swimming freestyle

What are your greatest achievements?
Beating cancer, Competing at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics at 16 year old, coming 7th at the London Paralypics for 400free and 100back

What training aids to you use and why?
I love using my Speedo Finger Paddles, it helps me get a really good natural feel for the water. I also love using my snorkel, as you are able to really pay 100% concentration on your technique and “forget” about breathing.

What is your favourite training and racing costume and why?
The Speedo FastSkin3 Super Elite is definitely my favorite suit to wear. It provides compression without feeling as if it’s limiting my range of motion. It also helps with my balance and stability in the water which is key for me while still allowing me to feel really buoyant and high in the water. I train in speedos open back endurance+ costumes. They are super comfy and last really long considering how much I train. I also love the fact that because the straps are thin I’m not left with crazy costume tan lines on my back!

What are your favourite goggles and why?
The Speedo Fastskin3 goggles are absolutely incredible, and I don’t think I could ever race in any other type of goggles. The wide peripheral view you are able to have is really fantastic. When swimming Freestyle you are able to see where your competitors are without having to look around and disrupt your technique. Also in back stroke you are able to see the lane ropes which really helps when you struggle to stay swimming in a straight line.

What are your swim goals for 2015?
My biggy in 2015 is IPC World Champs which is in August in Glasgow. I can’t wait to race internationally and am definitely aiming at bring back some medals. I see WC as a warm up for Rio in 2016, so I really want to go out there and exceed expectations.

Apart from swimming, what are your other main interests?
I absolutely love the beach and body boarding, camping and getting out of the city, I’m a bit of a coffee shop addict and foodie! I love discovering new coffee shops and restaurants around town.

Give us a timeline synopsis of an average day in your life, eg awake at 6am, training from 6:30 etc.
I wake up around 6am, eat breakie, have a swimming session from 7:00 – 9:00am, I will then either do my gym session or Pilaties and stretch from 9:00-10:30am, then I change and get ready for classes (I study sport science) which are usually between 11:00-1:00pm, then I get home eat lunch and have a nap before I head back to the pool at around 3:00pm for my last session which ends at 5:45pm, then I get home make myself dinner and try work up the motivation to study before I hit the sack at around 9:00pm.

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