Starting her swimming career at an age when most swimmers have already peaked, Southern River swimmer Holly Barratt proved she has what it takes when she won silver at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Tuesday, after a nail-biting race that saw records shattered.
The 34-year-old took joint second place in the 50-metre butterfly finals with a time of 26.05, coming in just millimetres behind NSW golden girl Emma McKeon, who claimed her record-breaking 12th gold medal for the games with a time of 25.9.
Holly Barratt, who attended John Wollaston Anglican Community School in Camillo until her graduation in 2005, was beaming when she exited the pool on Tuesday and told media that the race took her back to when she first started swimming.
“I realised last night after the semi that, rather than trying to race for a time, I was going to be racing for a place,” Holly said.
“Which is kind of awesome, that in the swim that’s my last long course race it’s back to racing for a place, just like when I started when I was a kid.”
Holly looked comfortable and controlled in the water, leading the pack for the first 30 metres in the pool.
But the powerful swimmer’s path from school kid to silver medallist was not a typical one.
While Holly took to the pool at a young age, her mother, Deb, says it was another parent who prompted her pursuit of a career in the pool.
“Holly started swimming when she was nine-years-old, which is young, but she had asthma and we thought it was a good place to begin,” Deb said.
“She showed natural talent at a school carnival and another mum suggested we take her to Armadale Kelmscott Swimming Club. That was in about 1997.
“She was under the coaching of Peter Jamieson – he was her initial coach – and he resigned so, we had to move clubs, which at the time felt devastating.
“She started at Swan Hills and that’s when the seed was planted for her.
“It was a big few years and she was very serious about it.”
But the swimmer’s ambitions were halted when, at 19, Holly suffered a shoulder injury.
“I took her to a specialist who said there was nothing to be done,” Deb said.
“She took five years off and during that time she matured.”
Returning to the pool at 24, Holly began working with Rockingham trainer Will Scott, who said the swimmer’s dedication is what gives her such a competitive edge.
“When she first got back in, I think it was from a drive to see what she could do, because the athletes she was working with were doing relatively well for their age,” Will said.
“She just gave it her all from the beginning, she just kept chipping away and four, five years later she was swimming really fast, she was just consistent and did well.”
That consistency gave Holly a spot on the Australian squad as its oldest ever rookie, in the lead up to the 2018 games on the Gold Coast, where Holly won her first silver.
Proud mum Deb said she had been sleeping on the couch and setting early morning alarms to watch her daughter race live at 3.40am.
“When it comes up to this time it becomes very nerve wracking,” Deb said.
“We got up at two o’clock, it was a bit early but we didn’t want to miss anything.
“She had a brilliant start, very powerful over 30 metres and was just pipped at the post.
“We are super proud of her and her achievements, it’s got to be harder coming from the west because we have little competition compared to the east coast, for all that she has achieved we are super proud.”
Her former trainer agreed.
“It’s a testament to her dedication, she did what she needed to do to get herself in the best position possible, and it’s a very good result,” Will said.
Australia’s Commonwealth Games squad is dominating the competition in Birmingham, with 42 gold, 32 silver and 32 bronze putting them at the top of the pile after day five with 106 medals.
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