Twelve-year-old Toby Campbell “keeps turning up every day at 6am and doing the hard yards” says one of his swimming coaches, Richard Beresford from the Yamba community Heated Pool.
Now, with the Yamba pool shut for the offseason, Campbell continues to train five days a week: four times at Evan Head and one day at the South Grafton pool, where he is mentored by Alan Paterson.
Paterson says, while Campbell is “only at the start of his apprenticeship”, he is “on track to do anything he wants to”.
“He has a good management team, his mother Tanya, he’s self-motivated and he has the qualities that make a champion; it’s up to him how far he goes.”
Campbell is about as humble as a 12-year-old could be when assessing his motivation to swim competitively.
“It’s kind of like my strength, I guess,” he says. “It makes me feel a bit stronger about myself.
“When I dive into the water it feels like…”
Campbell’s unsure about how his response should end, but says he “doesn’t really mind” where he finishes in a race.
“It makes me want to train harder to get there [and be the winner].”
His love of swimming began on Main Beach in Yamba, when he was seven.
“Mum tried to get me to do nippers, but I sat on the beach because I didn’t want to do it; I wanted to be a stronger swimmer before I’d start,” he says.
“So we went straight to the pool and did swimming lessons for a year; then I started at Friday night swim club [at the Yamba community pool].
“So I just swam, instead of nippers.”
Campbell started competing at carnival’s soon after, but says he’s only “been competitive for about a year, to be honest”.
When asked if he was more motivated to improve his personal best (PB) times or win races, he says: “It’s not really to beat other people, it’s kind of improving my swimming and fitness to eventually, one day, go to the Olympics.
“I don’t really care about beating people, but it feels good when I win.
“I’m aiming at the Boston Olympics, when I’m 19.”
He’s looking forward to upcoming development days, where “I get a special coach who trains for the Olympics”.
“He comes down to this group day and we do training and drills and lectures and speeches; they tell us about the drugs and why we shouldn’t take them.
“After that there’s another one in South Grafton, then the target squad in mid August.”
Campbell was among 23 swimmers from the north coast who recently competed at the NSW Country Short Course Championships in Sydney, where he placed among the top 10 in five of the six events he contested.
Despite his results falling short of what he achieved at the North Coast Winter Championships in Lismore, where he won 11 gold medals and set two records, he says: “It’s not discouraging; it’s more motivating to catch up with them.
“I don’t know if I’m good enough to make the Olympics, but I know I can get to the trials and give it my best shot.”
Patterson says: “Toby’s improving at a higher rate than normal; he’s learning all the skills and how to train and, more importantly, fine tuning the different strokes.
“Which distances or strokes he specialises in will come later in his swimming career.
“One thing I enjoy about coaching him is his love for swimming.”