Balancing Year 12 whilst preparing for Tokyo

​Balancing life as an elite athlete with your Year 12 studies can be challenging at the best of times. And with the Tokyo Paralympics around the corner, life for Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) scholarship holder Col Pearse is about to get even more challenging.

But, with the ongoing support of the Victorian Institute of Sport and Swimming Australia, Pearse has every confidence that he will be able to manage and succeed in all challenges that life throws at him. 

“Year 12 has already been a serious grind,” he said.

“I’m spending over 20 hours a week with swimming commitments, and over 40 hours with school commitments. But, with the support of the VIS and Swimming Australia, I’ve been able to make sure I stay on top of my schoolwork, on top of my training as well as giving myself the best chance to go to the Paralympic Games.”

Pearse is very “grateful” for the relationships he’s been able to build with experts at the Victorian Institute of Sport, including his close bond with strength and conditioning coach Jono Wallace-Smith.

“We [Jono] work together in the gym, constantly working on things outside of the pool, like my speed work and building muscle. He also has a great understanding that I’ve got a lot going on with Year 12.”

The 17-year-old, who’s currently studying at St Michaels Grammar School in St Kilda, insists that whilst representing Australia at the Paralympic Games will be a “dream come true” he still understands the importance of finishing school.

“I know my education must always come first, I’ve always felt that I can talk to my teachers or the Performance Lifestyle Team at the Victorian Institute of Sport, if I ever do start to fall behind.”

Pearse, who had his right foot amputated from below the ankle at age two following a collision with a ride-on lawn mower, first made his senior Australia debut in 2019. He competed at the 2019 London Para World Championships, where he won a bronze medal in his favoured 100m Butterfly event.

For as long as he can remember, representing Australia has always been a dream of his.

“Tokyo will be a dream come true, I moved to Melbourne at the age of 14 away from my family, with the goal of one day making the Paralympic Team.”

“All those long hours in the pool, early mornings, late nights and pushing your body to it’s limits, will have all paid off.”

Due to the restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Pearse returned home to his family’s dairy farm in Echuca. This forced him to think creatively and work out how he would still manage to get his pool and land sessions completed.

“It’s always been a bit of a family joke about swimming in farm’s dam, but once they said that all pools would be closing in Victoria, mum looked to me and said, ‘Yep, we’re getting it done tomorrow’.

“We used steel fence posts on some wooden creates as the wall and created lane ropes by connecting some milk bottles together with hay string.”

With the creation of his new swimming pool, and a garage port filled with gym equipment, Pearse worked virtually with Wallace-Smith to come up with a program that would work whilst in lock down.

“We were on regular phone calls, and he would always be showing me how to do the exercises correctly.”

During the cold winter mornings, Pearse said that there was always one person there to motivate and push him through the tough times.  

“I was really grateful for the help of my mum, she was always at one end of the dam counting my laps and doing the time cycles, she basically turned into my coach for 2 to 3 months.”

Although Pearse’s Mother and the rest of the family won’t be able to go over to Tokyo and watch him due to the COVID restrictions, on the inside he knows they will be watching and cheering him to the finish line.

“Mum has said that if she can’t go to the Games, then it’s the perfect excuse to buy a nice brand-new widescreen TV.” He laughed.  


The Victorian Institute of Sport are proudly supported by Open Universities Australia, who are both in support of National Careers Week from May 17 - 23. Click HERE for more information about National Careers Week. 

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