You don’t get a lot of time for resting on your laurels when you’re a driven man, like Tauranga’s Lochlainn O’Connor.
He’s fresh from scoring three gold medals and a silver in individual events in the junior division of November’s Lifesaving World Championships in Adelaide, as well as a host of other medals in team events, not to mention propelling his Junior Black Fins to the world championship team title.
And his reward? A whole five days off.
“Swimmers don’t really get breaks,” says Lochlainn, who has somehow managed to complete Year 13 at Aquinas College in amongst his punishing training schedules, as well as competing in Adelaide and at August’s Junior Pan Pacific swimming champs in Fiji.
“One or two weeks a year is sort of it. I had five days off after I got back from the competition, and I’ve been back in the pool ever since. That’s how I’m going at the moment.”
It was an extraordinary series of achievements for Lochlainn at the lifesaving worlds, picking up a total of seven medals - way beyond his wildest expectations, and a great way to announce himself as a top prospect in the sport.
“Going into it, I was looking at top five - maybe a couple of medals here and there - and that would have been exceptional for me.”
His efforts were crucial in taking the Junior Black Fins to the world title, but he’s quick to deflect the credit.
“It was an awesome team effort from not just the athletes, but all of the management and the coaching staff. We were lucky with two great coaches - John ‘Spindles’ Bryant and Matt Cairns - and our management staff.
“They helped make the team what it was, and we got an awesome result because of it.
“It was huge for us - the first time that the title has ever come away from Australia and the first time that we’ve ever won the junior title, so that’s awesome.”
And especially satisfying, he says, because of some of the tactics the Aussies adopted, notably in the tough manikin carry events he excelled in.
“It was really good to get that one up on them. The mind games started coming in – I can remember a couple of Aussies telling me that my hands were feeling slippery and I was going to drop my manikin, all of that sort of stuff.
“But you just stick to your processes and get through it. We pulled through really well.”
Christmas and the holiday season loom, but for Lochlainn, little changes with his training regime and ten sessions a week in the pool. He’s got a big 2019 to prepare for, with ambitions to make the national teams for the World University Games in Naples, Italy, in swimming, and the German Cup in the Netherlands and International Rescue Challenge in South Africa in lifesaving.
And that’s all coming on top of his educational plans.
“For next year, I believe I'm going to be studying a sport and rec degree at Toi Ohomai,” he says. “That's the goal.”
And driven on by his own motivational philosophy, it’s another one he should take in his stride.
“Keep doing it if you’re enjoying it, and don’t regret anything.”
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