Journey from water baby to Olympian

WHEN Olympic gold medallist Brooke Hanson was three she almost drowned - twice.

She had been on a family holiday with her parents on the central coast of New South Wales and being a ``water baby'' had worked her way to the pool.

``Dad had to drag me up coughing and spitting,'' Hanson said.

It was then that her parents decided to enrol her in swimming lessons.

``That was the best decision mum and dad ever made,'' the swimming star said.

Hanson was in Launceston yesterday speaking at the Tasmania AUSTSWIM Aquatic Conference at the Door of Hope.

The conference was attended by about 100 AUSTSWIM teachers and coaches who listened to Hanson's inspiring speech and engaged in practical activities around water safety skills, to help decrease the number of drownings in Tasmania.

``Now that I have a 3 1/2-year-old, I can't imagine how frightening that (drowning episode) could have been for my parents,'' Hanson said.

``A lot of people say that six months is too early to start kids in swimming lessons, but I started my firstborn Cooper then and that got him used to the water.''

As well as talking about the benefits of starting children early on their swimming journeys, Hanson also spoke about her own swimming career.

At five years old Hanson won her first race, a 15-metre doggie paddle - ``but I swam breaststroke,'' Hanson said.

Twenty-one years later, she won a gold medal in the 4x100 metre medley relay and a silver in the 100 metre breaststroke at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. 

That same year, she won six gold medals at the 2004 FINA World Short Course Championships in Indianapolis.

But success didn't just happen for Hanson.

``I missed out on making the 1996 and the 2000 Olympics by a fingernail,'' she said.

``I had a lot of knockers telling me, you're too old, you're too slow you're never going to make it.

``But then there was a positive voice inside of me that said, don't ever give up on your dream, you will be an Olympian.''

After accomplishing that dream, Hanson tells everyone ``embrace the day, believe in your dreams and never, ever give up because I can say that dreams really do come true if you believe, listen to your inner voice and never give up''.

Olympic gold medallist Brooke Hanson in Launceston yesterday. Picture: WILL SWAN

Olympic gold medallist Brooke Hanson in Launceston yesterday. Picture: WILL SWAN