School Sports Network managed to catch up with Zimbabwe’s swimming star Robyn Lee. Lee was in Egypt where she won eight medals, five of them gold for team Zimbabwe at the All Africa Junior Swimming Championships. The young swimmer opens up about how she started swimming and how well her family supports her efforts. Lee also shares some wise words with young sports people on how to attain success.
SSN: Robyn, you have had an amazing week in Cairo. Did it turn out the way you expected?
Robyn: To be honest, I wasn’t too confident going into the meet as I have been injured for this last year so have had barriers in my training that have hindered me.
SSN: Thankfully you found the strength and you did well for family, country and yourself. You were on the podium eight times. What’s racing through your mind as they raise your country’s flag? What’s the feeling like?
Robyn: I really don’t know how to explain it. I just watch the flag as it slowly rises, and I think of all the hard work that has paid off to do my country proud! I have a feeling of pride that bubbles inside me while the Zimbabwe anthem plays.
SSN: I can imagine; it must be such an amazing feeling. Back to basics: when and how did you start swimming?
Robyn: I started swimming because of my brother at an early age of about three. I was always around pools because of his training and competing. Mrs. Coventry (Kirsty Coventry’s mother) was my swimming teacher, and then subsequently my coach at Pirates.
SSN: And now that you’re not only swimming, but also doing well on the international stage, how much support does your brother give you?
Robyn: He gives me a world of support! He’s happy to help take me to training when needed. And while I’ve been in Cairo, he’s messaged me telling me to go for gold and raise the flag high. I know my brother would be proud however I swum, and he will always be around to support me when needed.
SSN: Sounds like a great brother you have. Do you ever fight like all siblings do?
Robyn: We have our odd squabble, but generally we are very close.
SSN: This is all not easy. In the face of difficulties what keeps you driven and motivated?
Robyn: You have to have a love of the sport, as swimming up and down can be very lonely. My swimming team motivates me as well as my family.
SSN: So has your love always been swimming, or at some point you thought of taking up another sport?
Robyn: I’ve always had a love for swimming.
SSN: That probably explains all the success you are having now. Let’s talk about the move to Australia. Did you find schooling there very different to what you had experienced at Chisi Junior?
Robyn: Yes, it was very different. I had my first male teacher and the subject content is very different to Zim schools.
SSN: And how did you cope with that along with the intensity in the swimming pool?
Robyn: I had to face every day as it came. Sometimes swimming took my mind off the reality of moving to a new country.
SSN: I think I know the answer to my next question but which swimmer/s do you look up to and why?
Robyn: As a young girl I looked up to Kirsty Coventry and admired how she was representing Zimbabwe. Last year at the world short course champs in Doha I watched Katinka Hosszu break numerous world records, and she has inspired me too.
SSN: Your greatest achievement to date?
Robyn: I would say my achievements in Cairo here this week.
SSN: Yes you are in top form at the moment, but last year wasn’t that great with injuries and all. You want to talk about your come back?
Robyn: Injuries are part of the sport, and most athletes have to endure them at some stage. It was a tough year for me, pushing through the injuries, and I am glad to have come out the other side in good form and racing PBs(personal best times).
SSN:Racing PBs and setting new African records. What’s next for Robyn? Short and medium term goals?
Robyn: Short term goal is to get back into training and chip away at my times. Medium term is to get back into hard training and possibly attend South Africa Senior Nationals in April next year.
SSN: You can rest assured that Zimbabwe will be rallying behind you. You speak of hard training: what’s a typical school and training day like for you?
Robyn:I’m up at 4:30am to leave home at 5:00am, and I’m in the water from 5:30-7:30. I then go straight to school from 9:00am -3:30pm. I leave home at 4:10pm. Training is from 5:00pm- 7:00pm. I then go home, prepare for the next day, study, eat dinner and go to sleep.
SSN: You have inspired young African swimmers and some people have dubbed you the next Kirsty with your achievements in the pool. Any words to encourage the youngsters that are now looking up to you as a role model?
Robyn: Train hard, don’t cheat yourself, and when the going gets tough, fight harder for what you believe in.