SWIMMING: For young Zahra Bauer, the crop fields of the Lockyer Valley might seem like a long way from the Gold Coast pools ready-and-waiting for the Commonwealth Games athletes next April.
But last week she was one of many local students who got the chance to rub shoulders with Australian swimmer Tessa Wallace, who will be gunning for gold at next year's games.
Wallace visited Mount Sylvia State School, Pilton State School and Peace Lutheran Primary School last week as a part of the QAS4Schools program to speak about her journey from youngster to Olympic swimmer, as well as the importance of healthy eating and lifestyle habits.
While the path to becoming a champion is never an easy one, Wallace has travelled on an especially bumpy road.
After winning a silver medal in the 200m breaststroke at the 2010 games in Delhi, she was derailed by knee surgery in 2011.
Although she recovered in time to make her Olympic debut in 2012, her preparations were hampered by Ross River virus and upon returning home, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease.
But with that behind her, the 24-year-old is working hard with her sights set on winning gold next year after coming home empty handed from the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
She is currently training nine times a week in the pool, on top of gym and cardio sessions, while also working at a real estate agency and studying a communications degree on her native Sunshine Coast.
"(We're) only building up at the moment because it's quite a long preparation ahead,” Wallace said.
"Getting on the podium would be absolutely fantastic again.
"I guess the major goal is to win that elusive gold... I'm hoping to come away with it but it's going to be an extremely competitive games next year, definitely the hardest that I've witnessed so far.
"It's going to be really exciting though so I'm looking forward to it.”
While it might be held on a different coast to the one she calls home, having the games in Queensland was an exciting proposition for the swimmer, who has done a fair share of globe-trotting during her career.
"It's not often we have a home crowd and the hope and excitement is just building and I know all of us athletes are just so pumped to get out there,” she said.
"To be there with thousands of your own supporters cheering for you, it doesn't get much better than that.
"It's always exciting to go overseas and experience the world but I think it's pretty cool to finally have one here in your backyard.”
Sharing her personal story with school kids was always a pleasure for Wallace but she said it was just as important to tell them how crucial regular physical activity is for their long term health.
"I think the main thing I'd like kids to hear is how important exercise is and having fun with it,” she said.
"In this day and age it is now with technology and iPads and everything it's hard to kids to go out and play and have fun, that's what I really enjoyed when I was young and hopefully we can keep them moving and keep them healthy.”
She was surprised by the number of country kids she met at Mount Sylvia State School who regularly swim themselves and was ready to have a dip at their local pool - the Lockyer Valley Sports and Aquatic Centre - once her duties were finished for the day.
"I have to swim this afternoon and I don't really have time to get back to the Sunshine Coast so I was thinking of having a little bit of a dip into the Gatton pool,” she said.
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