This week on Sparta Chicks Radio, you’ll meet a woman who reminds me of two very important lessons that are just as relevant to our personal lives and career as they are to sport:
- that “failure” and even heartbreaking disappointment is never final, and
- that you have no idea how far you can go unless you get in there and have a try.
Hayley Nixon was a talented swimmer as a child.
In fact, her Dad “always said that he could swear we were swimming underwater and doing laps before we could even take our first step walking.”
Hayley then discovered and fell in love with rowing at University. At the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she was one of South Africa’s most talented up-and-coming rowers.
In 2009, a two month visit to see her brother who was living in Sydney turned into 14 month stay as she fell in love with Sydney and the training opportunities it presented.
During this time, she discovered triathlons and participated in her first Half Ironman (as they were called then) in Port Macquarie with our mutual friend, Laura Siddall (my guest from episode #11).
On returning to South Africa in 2010, Hayley set out on a 2 year mission to qualify to represent South Africa in rowing at the 2012 London Olympics.
I’ll let Hayley tell the full story in this conversation.
But only three months before the Games, she was informed that she hadn’t been selected for the team.
"I went home and I literally bawled on the floor like someone had just died. Someone had died, like I had died, my world had died. Just thinking about where you come from, and how you establish yourself as an athlete, I was Hayley the rower, Hayley the rower that wanted to go to the Olympics. Everything was just rowing."
After this disappointment, she left rowing and quickly discovered flatwater marathon paddling and then canoe (surf ski) ocean racing.
And just two years after taking up canoe ocean racing, in December 20017 Hayley won Gold at the World Championships.
In this conversation, we discuss:
* her love of swimming at a young age and how a fact of access to coaching prevented Hayley from exploring her potential in the sport,
* discovering rowing at University,
* meeting Laura Siddall (Sid), racing in her first triathlon (a Half Ironman) and how the cross training that triathlon provided her was an invaluable component of her fitness development for rowing,
* her heartbreaking disappointment when she wasn’t selected for the team for the London Olympic and what she learnt (with the benefit of hindsight) from that experience,
* how winning the World Championship in canoe ocean racing gave her the validation and vindicated her belief that she was a talented athlete, and
* how she has dealt with the critics who suggested she only won the World Championship because the conditions were mild and who suggested she didn’t deserve to win it because she hadn’t been in the sport very long.
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