23 February 2024

Canberra swimming champion Abbey Webb leaving nothing to chance to make the Paris Olympics

| Tim Gavel
Start the conversation
woman at swimming cool

Abbey Webb after training at the ACT Performance Centre. Photo: Jennifer Andrew.

Abbey Webb realised towards the middle of last year that her best chance of making the Australian swimming team for the Paris Olympics was a return to training in Canberra.

Not one to take half-measures in her quest to compete at the Olympics, 23-year-old Abbey left her university scholarship in America to come back to a training regime that had served her well in the past.

Shannon Rollason, head coach at the ACT Performance Centre, had coached Abbey to the Australian Junior and Australia A teams.

“She wasn’t swimming well in America,” said Shannon.

“It was an experience for her, but it wasn’t the best for her swimming, and what impressed me was that she cut her scholarship to come back, and I thought she was serious if she was going to do that.”

And he remembers well that day when she returned to the ACT to swim.

READ ALSO Olympic hopefuls hot to trot at Willinga Park’s Dressage by the Sea

Shannon recalls his conversation with Abbey.

“I asked her why did you come back. She said in response she wanted to make the team. There probably wasn’t a better answer that she could give.”

Shannon is well versed on what makes a champion, having coached Jody Henry, Alice Mills and Pernille Blume to a collective six Olympic gold medals in his lengthy coaching career.

Abbey also knows the coaches that best harness her ability to swim in multiple disciplines.

four swimmers next to a pool

Abbey Webb (third from the left) with Natasha Ramsden, Eliza King and Lani Pallister at the 2018 Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships. Photo: Abbey Webb Facebook.

She says, “I think Jim Fowlie was the right person I needed at the time. He was the one who helped me get onto the junior team, which was a big step. I’m now trying to take that next step with Shannon to try and get onto the senior team.”

Which will be easier said than done.

For two of her events, the 200 freestyle and 200 backstroke, she will be up against Olympic champions Ariarne Titmus and Kaylee McKeown.

But her mind isn’t on other swimmers; she is focusing on her own goal.

“Ever since I was a little kid, it has always been the end goal to make the Olympic team; that would be the greatest achievement you get in swimming; it would be such an honour to represent my country.”

At training, Abbey is surrounded by other swimmers with strong reputations and the drive to compete at the highest level.

Shannon Rollason with ACT Performance Centre swimmer Kayla Harding in 2019. Photo: Swimming NSW Facebook.

Shannon Rollason with ACT Performance Centre swimmer Kayla Harding in 2019. Photo: Swimming NSW Facebook.

Shannon has built an impressive squad that includes the likes of Bronte Campbell and Canberra’s Kayla Hardy.

Says Shannon, “Bronte came into the program last April and Abbey came back in May. They have really lifted the program to a new level.”

READ ALSO Canberra bashing just the usual diversion in disaster-prone deep north

Abbey said she is soaking up as much as possible training alongside the dual Olympic gold medallist.

“In the last Olympic cycle, we got to train alongside Jess Hansen, and now, with this cycle, we have Bronte. It’s really good to see how they do things They take everything so seriously. They are always doing what they need to do to prepare. It is so good to have someone to look up to like that,” says Abbey.

swimmer and her coach

Shannon Rollason with Jessica Hansen. Photo: Swimming NSW Facebook.

In the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics, Abbey finished fourth in the 200 backstroke and fourth in the 200 butterfly, and she made the final of the 200 freestyle at the trials.

Shannon has high hopes ahead of the Paris Olympic trials in June.

“She’s certainly got the attributes to be an Olympian; she’s talented. Abbey has a killer instinct. Right from day one, I saw that in her. With those athletes, it’s about harnessing it. On race day, you want those racers. They are the people who can lift. They are the people in a basketball team or a football team that you want to get the ball when it counts and Abbey certainly has that attribute.”

Out of the water, Abbey has made plenty of sacrifices to get to this point, but she wouldn’t change anything. However, she is cautious about looking too far ahead.

“I just like to think and be in the moment and take it step by step,” says Abbey. However, for the Canberra community, we can’t help but think ahead and feel optimistic about Abbey and her Paris Olympic dream.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.