Bachelor of Commerce graduate Deborah Tsai from The University of Western Australia is hoping a lifetime of gymnastics and ballet and a late passion for swimming will earn her a spot on the Synchronised Swimming Team for the Rio Olympics when it is announced in April.
Deborah, 21, from Waterford, is the ‘flyer’ in the Australian Synchronised Swimming Squad, which sees her ‘on top’ of most of the team lifts and throws, a high-pressure job which she says she “really enjoys”.
“I was a national level gymnast in Singapore, where I was born, and also had a background in ballet but was absolutely terrible swimmer when I started ‘synchro’ in Perth at age 13,” she said.
“I was one of the founding members of West Coast Splash at its inception in 2009. I had previously swum for a year in Singapore before I migrated to Australia and the rest, as they say, is history.
“I started the sport relatively late but I was drawn to it because it’s something that’s a little bit different to everything else – it combines so many different aspects of other sports and is a melting pot of skills.”
While she was part of the Shadow Squad for the 2012 London 2012, Rio will be the sportswoman’s first crack at the Olympics ‘team proper’, a challenge she said she is well and truly ready for.
“I didn’t quite make the cut for London, so I’m hoping to go one better this time,” she said.
“People make fun of the sport all the time but it’s actually a lot of hard work. Here in WA we have the best training program in Australia and we get a lot of support from the Western Australian Institute of Sport. Compared to the other states in Australia, we have the most number of girls on the Olympic training squad.”
Deborah, who majored in Business Law and Finance and was awarded a $3000 UWA Convocation Scholarship in 2015, said the University has been supportive of her up-to-30-hours-a-week sporting commitments.
“My degree was completely unrelated to sport however I managed to take several sports science units as electives as I thought they would help me understand myself as an athlete better and some of the different aspects of my training from a scientific perspective,” she said.
She said the final squad will present two team routines at the Olympics, a technical routine, with set elements that have to be performed in order, and a free routine.
“Our free routine is based on the theme 'Australian animals' and is a development of the concept we had with our routine last year which was all about Redback spiders. It's very different to what we've done before, so watch out,” she said.
Caption: Deborah Tsai (second from the left in the top row) with Australian Synchronised Swimming Team
David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Relations Manager)(+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716