SwimScape: Diving into diversity

23 December 2023

Name: Salani Aloma Sa’aga

Age: 15 years

Salani Sa'aga

The Swimming NSW Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) is a dynamic force bringing together metro and country voices. Amongst this movement is 15-year-old Salani Aloma Sa'aga, a Metro Northeast swimmer from Knox Pymble under the guidance of Coach Steven Goodier.

Salani's journey with YAP began unexpectedly after receiving an invitation to the NSW Leadership camp. As a metro swimmer, she found herself among predominantly country swimmers. This experience proved transformative, broadening her perspective on swimming from being solely an elite, high-performance sport to a widely enjoyed recreational activity in this country.

Reflecting on her experience, Salani sees an opportunity for Swimming NSW to enhance the promotion and culture surrounding recreational events like Swim League. She envisions creating a vibrant culture through fun events and non-competitive competitions to boost swimming's popularity. In her view, this approach could fuel junior development programs, fostering a pipeline for future senior-level swimmers.

One aspect where SNSW is already making strides, according to Salani, is inclusivity. As a YAP member, she has been part of efforts to expand the swim confidence program, promoting inclusivity across the swimming community. This commitment is visibly reflected on social media platforms, showcasing the sport as accessible and enjoyable for all.

For Salani, swimming is not just a sport – it’s a source of freedom, offering a reprieve from the demands of school and daily life and an opportunity to ‘unpack my day’s worries and just zone in between the lanes’. Her achievements include representing Samoa at the recent Commonwealth Youth Games in Trinbago and the Pacific Games in Solomon Islands and, like many young swimmers, she dreams of competing at the Olympics.

In the next 12 months, the young backstroker hopes to improve her technique, stay healthy and injury-free, be mentally stronger, and better enjoy the biggest swim meets. She looks up to several swimming idols for inspiration and motivation.

“I have a few (idols) and with good reasons. Kaylee McKeown because she’s so out of this world talented. Ellie Cole because she is the most hilarious and inspirational athlete ever. Natasha Ramsden because she was so kind and generous with her time, always encouraging and chatting to young swimmers like me who looked up to her,” said Salani.

Away from the pool, you will find Salani shopping or at the movies with friends, when she’s not tap dancing, playing the guitar, showcasing her Uno card-playing prowess or volunteering at the local Lifeline shop.

In one word, Salani describes herself as "resilient." This resilience is not just a personal trait but a collective characteristic she attributes to all swimmers who have weathered the challenges of lockdowns and training disruptions and have returned to the pool stronger than ever.

Being a member of YAP has allowed Salani to dive into the behind-the-scenes of swimming, collaborating with like-minded teenagers and contributing to the betterment of the sport. Her most cherished memory from her YAP journey is the leadership camp, a three-day experience filled with lifelong memories, forging friendships, and honing essential soft skills.

In the ever-evolving landscape of swimming in NSW, Salani Aloma Sa'aga and the Youth Advisory Panel stand as beacons of change, shaping a future where swimming is not just a sport but a community-driven, inclusive endeavour for all.

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