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Reflections – competing in the World Aquatics MastersSwimming World Championships – Fukuoka Japan

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I had an amazing time at the World Championships – a lot of new experiences, competing at this level,
seeing world records broken, making new friends, and then having a fantastic and memorable holiday after
the competition.

I am pleased with my results, which were better than I expected. I finished 5th in the 3 km open water swim,
the 400m freestyle and 200mbreastroke. I was 7th in the 800m freestyle, 12th in the 100m breaststroke and
17th in the 50m breaststroke. I brought home 4 ‘Diplomas’ for finishing in the top 10.

I arrived in Fukuoka a few days early so that I could acclimatise. The continuous 38 degrees heat was a bit of
a shock after the cold weather we were having when I left. In the days before the competition started, I navigated the public transport system (buses, trains and the subway) to find the training pools available and to get to Seaside Momochi Beach Park and the competition pools – Marine Messe and Nishi Civic. I also had to source food and work out the money. I enjoyed the Bento boxes and beautiful salads from the food malls at Hakata Station and also got to sample the traditional Ramon meal (thanks for the recommendation, Michele).
My first race was the open water swim. There were about 80 swimmers in my wave. I enjoyed the swim (3km is so much easier that a 50m sprint) although the water temperature was 27 degrees, and the quality wasn’t the best. It was great feeling to finally start competing after all the training and preparation.

Ready for Competition

Before the pool competition started, I had two free days. I got to swim in one of the competition pools, Marine Messe, where the Dolphins competed. I also had some time to be a tourist walking around Old Hakata Town with an American competitor. We visited a lot of temples and shrines during the afternoon. The following day I joined some other swimmers (from Australia and America) travelling to Nagasaki, where we visited the Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Garden, very interesting but very sad. Then there were more temples and the oldest stone bridge in Japan. This was a
lovely area as there were several small bridges crossing the river and large Japanese Koi swimming about. We travelled around Nagasaki in small street cars that reminded me of the old trams in Melbourne.

Championship Accreditation

The first day of the pool events was the 800m freestyle at Marine Messe. My swim went well, although not
quite as fast as I would have liked. What I really remember from the day was a little bit of drama in the
marshalling room where they check your bathers for the FINA approved tag. Mine had fallen off without me
realising and there was talk of not being able to swim in those bathers. It was even more confusing as most
of the conversation was in Japanese. If I had to change into my second suit, I may have missed my swim as
that isn’t an easy task. Fortunately, someone checked the rules, and I could swim but if I broke a world
record it wouldn’t be recognised (I didn’t see that as a problem).

My second swim was the next day, the 100m breaststroke at the Nishi Civic pool. After an hour of travelling,
I attempted the warmup in the very small, crowded pool. At least everyone had the same problem with up
to twenty women swimming at different speeds in every lane.

I had three days off before my next event. I went to Marine Messe to see Susie O’Neil swim her 50m
butterfly. It was very exciting cheering for her with all the other Australians. I spent the next two days
relaxing and waiting to see what was going to happen with the approaching typhoon. There was talk of
events being cancelled as the public transport, shops and facilities close when there is a typhoon.
Fortunately, the championships continued with events being rescheduled.

My next race was the 200 breaststroke at Marine Messe. The typhoon had passed but the schedule was
pushed back a couple of hours to give competitors more time to get to the pool as the public transport was
crowded. Over the last few years this has become my pet event, so I was pleased that the swim went so

The last day of the championships I had two events, the 400 freestyle and 50 breaststroke. I enjoyed both
swims. The 400m was the best I had felt in all my events. I was also happy with the 50m swim, but it hurt
more than the 400m (I definitely prefer distance events). There were a few competitors that found it
strange that I would do a 400m freestyle and a 50 breaststroke, not your typical combination of events.

Thanks to everyone for all of the support and lovely messages I received after every event. I really
appreciated it and enjoyed going through them when I returned to the hotel.

The week after the competition I went on a tour. I was the only Victorian; all of the others were from NSW. We had an amazing guide, Hiro, who patiently looked after our very diverse group and made sure no one got lost. The first stop was Hiroshima, travelling by Shinkansen (the bullet train travelling 300km an hour). We had a day trip to Miyajima Island and the Itsukushima Shrine and the Great Torii Gate which gets partially submerged at high tide. That night I went to a local family festival with street food and traditional dancing and music.

Shinkansan (bullet train)
Great Tori Gate Miyajima Island Horishima
Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) Kyoto


The visit to the Hiroshima Peace Park and museum were confronting and emotional. 140,000 people
died by the end of 1945, from the direct effects of the bomb and radiation sickness. There is also a
Children’s Peace Memorial. Many children died from radiation, cancer and leukaemia. The memorial
includes a statue of the young girl who died from leukaemia six years after the bomb. In hospital she
attempted to make 1000 origami cranes as a means to ward off her death, but only got to 650 before
she died. Her classmates finished the 1000 cranes and lobbied for the children’s memorial. The Dome
building remains exactly how it was after the bombing. I also visited the Hiroshima Castle which was
completely restored.

Children’s Peace Memorial
Dome Building Hiroshima

Our touring was a little limited in Kyoto because of the typhoon – a lot of wind and rain. I spent time wandering around the nearby market and got to visit the Pig Café and Fish Spa. Both interesting experiences. I did get to visit the Imperial Palace and Golden Castle with their amazing gardens. Our departure from Kyoto was delayed, but we were
eventually able to get to Tokyo, travelling by Shinkansen. In Tokyo I stayed in Ginza, the ‘up market’ shopping area. Some of the places I visited were the National Museum and the Imperial Palace, again with lots of tradition and beautiful gardens. I also went to Shinjuku, the busiest intersection in the world where 4 million people a day cross the street. A highlight here was going to a restaurant when the food was served by a robot.

Food served by Robot

I can definitely recommend Japan as a holiday destination, although maybe when it is not quite as hot
and there is less chance of typhoons. The people are lovely, the food is amazing and there are so many
things to see. And to make it a perfect holiday the swimming was a lot of fun.

Shopping Fukuoka
Shinjuku intersection Tokyo


Donna Gadsby

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