Congratulations Samantha Lee on your nomination for Wellington Sports Woman of the Year 2016.
Samantha is a top New Zealand Swimmer and Surf Life Saver. We got to speak with Sam about her journey so far, obstacles, goals and her advice to young female athletes.
How have you got to the level you are now? / what are your keys to success and where do you draw your inspiration from?
I’ve been involved in competitive swimming for 15 years and that helped lead me into surf life saving 10 years ago.
One of my keys to success is having such a strong base from years of hard training with Gary Hurring and our squad. We had a really competitive training environment with boys and girls, always pushing each other and every session was like a race! But we still had a lot of fun and that really drove my passion for the sport and has helped keep me going for so long. A lot of my inspiration comes from my team mates – both in my NZ Surf Life Saving team and also with the Australian group I train with. They are all so motivated and dedicated and it’s so inspiring to be surrounded by people like that who make you strive to be best you can be.
What obstacles have you overcome to get to where you are?
Sport is certainly a roller coaster ride and I’ve had many up and downs during my athletic career so far.
In 2010 I partially tore the ligaments in my ankle, which ended up taking about 6 months to get back to full uninterrupted training and was a really tough time for me mentally. However it made me realise how much I wanted to keep going with both swimming and surf life saving, and with the support of my coach and team mates I was able to get back to my best.
In January 2014 I got a stress fracture in my rib, which meant that I couldn’t train properly for a few weeks, with only 3 months until Commonwealth Games trials. Luckily with the help of Wellington Sports Med, I was able to get on top of it and was fortunate enough to qualify for my first Commonwealth Games.
Along the way I’ve had to make a lot of choices between social events and my sport, obviously sport was a huge priority for me so I chose not to attend my school balls and often missed parties and other events. Luckily my friends were very understanding and they still support me to follow my dreams.
What is your advice to young female athletes?
Being both a teenager and a sportswoman is a tough gig. You will miss out on social events and have to be home in bed early because you have training in the morning, while your friends are out partying. It can be hard to watch and you feel like you’re missing out, but you will have the opportunity to experience a lot more that sport can offer. I’ve had the chance to travel the world and meet so many different people with my sport; when I was at school and my friends were studying for exams I was racing in Hawaii, Taiwan and Australia. It’s always hard trying to balance everything but it’s definitely worth it. It’s not always going to go your way and sometimes you will feel like everything is going wrong and it’s all coming crashing down. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, it doesn’t make you weak; sport is both mentally and physically challenging and you need a strong group of support around you to help. There’s always going to be time in the future for socialising, working and university – your sporting window is a small portion of your life, so make the most of it.
What is your ultimate sporting goal?
To win the Surf Life Saving World Championships for the third time in a row and retain my world titles; I’m always striving for best times and trying to do things I haven’t done before.
Do you have any quirky rituals before competing?
I don’t think I have anything weird.. Just some streamline stretching side to side and awkward chicken wing arms..
I like to be pretty relaxed so I’m usually quite chatty and laughing before we go out to race, but once we walk out behind the blocks it’s business time!
Fave thing to eat post race?
Homebrand Jellybeans from Countdown – specifically blue, red, pink and white. Sounds ridiculous but they’re gluten free (like me) and taste amazing.
Samantha Lee in action during the 2012 New Zealand Short Course Swimming Championships, Day 5, Wellington Aquatics Centre, Kilbirnie, Wellington on Wednesday 4 October 2012. Photo: Justin Arthur / photosport.co.nz