13 March, 2023
“Bad swimmer” breaks chains to compete at nationals
BARELY five years after dipping his toes into the world of competitive swimming and believing he was a “bad swimmer”, 17-year-old Mareeba local Brady Hughes has smashed his own limitations and overcome his fears to become one of the best swimmers in the country.
Hughes spent much of his early life on the rugby league field and while he still swam for fitness, he never thought he would make it competitively.
“I’ve always loved swimming and I used to swim alongside my footy training to stay fit and I have always stuck with it,” Hughes said.
“I never really was a good swimmer but I loved it so much, so I just kept going.”
His perception changed in 2016 when he decided to leave rugby behind and dive head-first into the world of competitive swimming, joining the Atherton Swimming Club and after years of training, developing his body and building his confidence, Hughes’ begun competing in carnivals in 2018.
Despite never thinking he was up to the task, it only took him three years to qualify for his first ever state championship and the second one came shortly after in 2022.
“In 2018 I was never thinking this far ahead, I was just seeing how far I could go,” he said.
“I was expecting to make states and hoping to make nationals but I knew that was a big task.”
Hughes’ first experience at a state competition did wonders for his confidence as he saw his years of hard work and dedication be recognised right in front of his eyes.
“Before I made states, I was lacking confidence because I was not as fast as a lot of other people my age,” he said.
“The first time I made that state time it gave me a confidence boost and actually going down to the Chandler Swimming Pool in Brisbane was a lot different than swimming up here.
“You got to see all of the top professionals there as well, it had all the marshalling rooms and it is a big stadium – it felt like I made it and I wanted to go a step further after that.”
Despite not performing well at his first state championships Hughes was anything but discouraged and used the experience to reaffirm his goal of making nationals.
He returned to the state stage at the start of 2022 for the state sprints competition and again in August for the short course championships.
Hughes’ goal of swimming at nationals never faltered and this year, he got his chance after qualifying for the 50m and 100m freestyle at the Stingrays Carnival in February and the FNQ Champs last fortnight respectively.
His determination and skill secured him a spot at the 2023 Australian and Age Swimming Championships to take place from 7-15 April, it is the largest annual event on the Swimming Australia calendar and gathers thousands of the nation’s elite swimmers.
Hughes is ecstatic to have qualified for not one but two events at nationals despite being dead in the water with no motivation to compete just a year ago.
“I wasn’t actually expecting to make it to be honest because last year when I was going for nationals, I feel short by about 0.3 seconds and my confidence took a hit,” he said.
“I hit a plateau and I was not feeling good, not enjoying the sport anymore – I took a break for about a month and came back.
“We got a new coach, Adriano Schonenberge who is a world-class coach and he brought a lot of new tech-niques and styles of training that I’ve never had before and that really helped me re-spark my love for the sport.”
Hughes’ parents, Darren Hughes and Daniela Fregona, are beyond proud to see their son succeed after all of the hard work he has put in.
“To say that I am proud of him would be an understatement – his father, younger sister, brother and extended family are all very proud of him as well,” Ms Fregona said.
“This young man used to go to squad training in Atherton in the winter months so for him to do that he is a very determined young man.
“I feel so proud to be his mum and I am absolutely amazed at his determination, commitment and passion for swimming.
“He has also overcome obstacles such as not having a coach at various times in 2020 and 2021 and continued to go to training on his own with a few other dedicated young people.”
Hughes’ goal at nationals is to make it into the finals and the top 10, especially for the 50m freestyle and if he is successful, it would make him one of the best freestylers his age in Australia.
However he is not satisfied with just Australia and has set his eyes on the upcoming World Championship trials where he is 0.7 seconds off a qualifying time.
From believing he was bad swimmer to having a genuine shot at being one of the fastest 17-year-old freestylers in the country, Hughes’ journey both in and out of the pool is one that he will never forget as he continues to aim higher and higher in the world of swimming.