Launceston teenager Hugh Dolle's decision to move to Queensland to further his swimming career has paid off, with a swag of medals from the national titles on the Gold Coast.
The former Launceston Church Grammar student claimed two gold, three silver and one bronze medals - with two more events to go - in a packed program at the Australian Age Championships at Southport.
Dolle, formerly with South Esk Swimming Club, won the 16 year old boys' 50m freestyle in a personal best time of 23.34 seconds. He also won the 14-17 years 4x100m freestyle relay, in a national age record time. His silver medals were in the 16 years 100m freestyle, the 4x50m freestyle relay and the 14-17 4x200m freestyle relay; while the bronze was in the 16 years 200m freestyle.
Dolle, who moved to the sunshine state in the midst of COVID-19 uncertainty, said: "One of the biggest reliefs was that the [national titles] went ahead at all. With 2020 nationals being cancelled last year, I was nervous that the Brisbane lockdown was going to be extended."
The modest 16-year-old said his medal-winning results in the 100m and 200m freestyle were "unexpected" as his rankings heading into finals did not place him in medal contention.
"The 50 free, getting my first gold medal and national age title, is one of the highlights of the meet for me. The other is the 4x100m free relay swimming with Kai Taylor, Elliot Weber and Josh Staples. We won the gold and broke the Australian age record in a time of 3.23.36.
"The next night [when] we swam 4x200m free relay with Kai Taylor, Elliot Weber and Tom Nankervis, we also broke the record ... but placed second by 0.33 of a second.
"I still have work to do on my 400m free. Swimming longer distances is something I am still working on."
Dolle added that moving to Queensland and his new club, St Peter's Western, under coach Richard Sleight, was necessary to progress his swimming.
"Training with a nationally-focused team has helped me improve far more than I thought was possible," he added. "[South Esk head coach] Ketrina Clarke helped me to make the decision to move. South Esk gave me the foundations that I needed to start and St Peter's is taking me to the next level of swimming."
Dolle has a one-week break back home in Tasmania after nationals and then starts focusing on training for Olympic trials in Adelaide in June "for race experience and to try to improve my times this year before going into short course".
Hugh's parents, Bruce and South Esk president Kristen, plus younger sister Morgan, were all in Queensland to cheer him on.
Kris and Bruce said in a statement: "He has only been gone for four months. In that time he has had to adjust to life in boarding, studying and intensive training.
"He has given the move his best shot and it has all fallen into place for him. We are very proud of his results."