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Sarah Peters meets with 2012 Olympic hopeful and synchronized swimming star Olivia Allison to talk medals, training and what she loves most about Hampshire

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Olivia Allison began swimming aged two and by the time she was eight she was already interested in synchronised swimming. As with so many younger siblings, she went along to the pool because she wanted to be like her older sister, who was already involved in the art, often described as a mix of dance, gymnastics and swimming. Over the years Olivia simply excelled and she is now one of the most talented athletes of her generation. Born and raised in Portsmouth, Olivia has always felt close to Hampshire and one of her first great achievements for the county was coming 5th in a national competition when she was just ten years old. But why did she choose synchronised swimming?
Because it is such a unique sport, she says. You have to have such a variety of skills including strength, flexibility and creativity. In a routine you only have a split second to think about what youre doing. Its a progressing sport which means you are always trying to come up with more difficult and innovative movements, pushing your body and your capabilities to the max, while still trying to keep in synch!
Work
Training is of the utmost importance to Olivia and she spends up to six hours a day in the pool. Training includes all sorts of fitness exercises, swimming and specific synchronised swimming routines. She explains, My training includes speed swimming, cardio work, strength and conditioning, synchro technical work and synchro routine work, plus pool physical training which involves countless repetitions of the routine with weights around my waist, ankles and wrists. Then, theres flexibility and stretching and basic gymnastics.
It sounds exhausting and to keep on top of all the physical work required to fuel her activities, Olivia takes a keen interest in her nutritional intake to ensure she has enough energy to keep going. Bananas and mangoes being her favourite energy boosters, she comments, I have to make sure I eat enough before and during training. We can spend 6 hours in the pool at a time so I have to plan nutrition well so that I can keep physically on top of the training and keep mentally focused as well. After training its important to stock up again on calories, to make sure my muscles recover well.


"Life so far has taught me to be happy and positive and to seize the opportunities that life presents you"


Play
Olivia is engaged so how does this regime fit into her every day life? She explains, I dont have much time off, but I do enjoy having home made pizza with my fiancs big Italian family. Their pizza is made in a proper wood-burning pizza oven in their kitchen. Its delicious! I suppose my hobbies are eating and sleeping! As I train from 7am til 5pm most days it is hard to fit anything else in to my schedule. I work as a life guard and also help teach children to swim. Sleeping is always a good thing for me to do when I can get a bit of time to myself! I do like cooking and baking with my family and going on cycle rides in the countryside with my fianc is another thing I really enjoy.


"Life so far has taught me to be happy and positive and to seize the opportunities that life presents you"


Simply the best
Olivia is one of the athletes training as part of the British Synchronised Swimming World Class Programme in Aldershot. The programme is aimed at delivering success at the London 2012 Olympic Games and the national high performance training centre is based at the local army base which means Olivia and her swimming partner Jenna Randall have access to the excellent sports facilities at the British Army Garrison. In order to improve the pool to accommodate the world class swimmers, the huge eight lane 50m pool underwent some modifications. An underwater music system was installed as well as pool side TV monitors.
The facilities are excellent, says Olivia. We are excited to be training in a world class environment. Its the best way for us to prepare for the 2012 Games.


On Hampshire
As well as being able to train in such fantastic facilities, Olivia can once again enjoy living in her home county. Aged 11, Olivia and her family moved away from the area but she has always felt at home here, she explains, For me Hampshire is very central and allows me to visit friends and family all over the country. Its easy to get to London for shopping or to the seaside for a nice day out. I love the historic dock yard in Portsmouth and the Devils Punch Bowl. When I was growing up on the coast we used to go for lots of walks along the sea front or up Butser Hill in Queen Elizabeth Country Park and its great to be able to revisit my childhood whenever I have a day off.


The final countdown
Olivias greatest personal achievement to date is competing at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and achieving a silver medal at the Delhi Commonwealth Games 2010.With the Olympics looming once again, Olivia is focused on her training and is looking forward to the thrill of competing to the home crowd. She says, Competing in London with all the home support will be amazing. I hope to compete in both a team and duet event.
The pressure of representing your country must be unbearable, but Olivia is resolute, I need to stay focused on our goals, the plan and the performance. These things are all within my control.
Olivia is very determined but remains happy. She is someone with a very positive outlook on life and says its important to enjoy your sport and life in general.
I put 100% into whatever I do. I aim to get the most out of every training session and try to do that little bit extra. Life so far has taught me to be happy and positive and to seize the opportunities that life presents you. But, I am also keen to have fun! With that attitude, she cant go wrong.

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