Nell captures CIS bronze, Purple Pipe

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Purple Pipe: Hayley Nell

Justin Wu

A 'STROKE' OF GENIUS. Western swimmer Hayley Nell scoops this week's coveted Purple Pipe award for a phenomenal bronze medal performance at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national meet a few weeks ago.

Every week Gazette Sports awards the Purple Pipe to an outstanding varsity athlete. This week, we’re recognizing Western swimmer Hayley Nell.

Nell led the Western swim team to an impressive eighth-place finish at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships a few weeks ago. The first-year science student took home the bronze in the 50m freestyle. She was the first medalist at CIS for Western women in over a decade.

We caught up with the rookie to find out about the swim team, bikinis and pasta parties.

How long have you been swimming?
I’ve been swimming competitively since I was seven years old.

How did you start swimming?
I was born in South Africa and moved here when I was 10. When I moved to Canada, my mom wanted to get me involved in some sort of activity, so I took swimming lessons. The head of the program I was in was also the head of the competitive program and he told me to try out for the competitive team. So I did.

Do you have any swimming role models?
I don’t have any in specific, but there are certain swimmers I look at and think ‘Wow, I want to be like them.’

What is your favorite sport? Why?
Swimming. It’s not a really spectator-friendly sport because watching it is not that exciting. But because I’m a swimmer, things that happen in the sport are of significance to me because it affects me as an athlete.

What is your favorite stroke in swimming?
My best stroke is the freestyle, but I also like the backstroke.

What is your greatest accomplishment in your swimming career so far?
In the summer, I went to California with the Junior Canadian team and I swam really well. The team won the overall competition and I won my events.

If all of the Western swim team were drowning in a pool, which one of your teammates would you save?
They’re swimmers, they should be able to save themselves. I couldn’t name a person. But if I think of a name, I’ll get back to you [laughs].

Why do you choose to come to Western?
I’m from London and the head of my London swim team is also Western’s coach. So that was a big thing for me because I like training for Paul [Midgley]. He’s been working with me for a while and I wanted to continue swimming for him. I also like the science program at Western. I wanted to stay in Canada and was looking at schools that had a good swim team and good academic programs. It was between the University of Toronto and Western. Western won.

Would you rather swim in a lake, a pool, or an ocean? Why?
The ocean, but not for competing. I’m from South Africa so when I was younger, we would go to the ocean and swim. I love the waves.

Bikini or one piece?
It depends on what I’m doing. If I were going to the beach I wouldn’t wear a one piece. But when we see people come to the pool in bikinis, we tend to make fun of them. So, for swimming, one piece. For the beach and social purposes, two piece.

What are the pros and cons of being a rookie?
A rookie doesn’t really know the team as well, so you have to get to know all the swimmers and your team. You have to learn how they approach and handle meets and how they bond as a team. The pro is that people tend to look out for you more.

Do you have any pre-meet rituals?
Before a big meet, the Western team has pasta parties.

What is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you while swimming?
When we’re competing, we wear race suits and they’re pretty tight. One of my suits had a hole in it and because the suit is so tight, every time I moved the hole got bigger.

Describe a typical day in the life of a swimmer.
Eat, sleep, and swim. We train eight times a week. So it’s practice every morning at 5:30 a.m. Then I eat, go to school for the day, go back to practice, eat, do homework, and go to sleep. It’s hard to explain to another person why we do it. Sometimes we don’t even know why. But it just becomes such a huge part of your life.

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