Sam Short’s alarm goes off at 5.25am on six mornings a week to start a routine that has taken him to the top of the world.
One hour later, Sam is in Brisbane’s Centenary pool for one of 10 training sessions a week that have helped to make him the world’s best.
The former St William’s School, Grovely student claimed a cherished title for Australian swimming when he won the men’s 400m freestyle at the world championships in Japan in July.
Sam, 19, was in second place when he turned for the final lap but he surged past Tunisia’s Olympic champion Ahmed Hafnaoui in a stirring finish that brought the capacity crowd to its feet.
Sam’s time of 3 mins 40.60 secs was the fourth fastest in history as he became only the fifth Australian to win the men’s 400m world title after legends Kieren Perkins, Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett and the defending world champion Elijah Winnington.
Sam claimed a silver medal in the men’s 800m and a bronze medal in the 1500m freestyle to cap an astonishing world championships that have increased his appetite for a first Olympics appearance in Paris next year.
Sam’s 800m time of 7:37.66 was a national record, taking one second off the mark that Hackett set in 2005 when Sam was approaching his second birthday.
Sam is a student of Australian swimming history so he knew immediately that he had broken Hackett’s record and his idol was quick to send him congratulations with a message that read: “Insane watching you this week. Congrats on 800m – I love seeing you go this fast and pass me. Awesome.”
Sam returned to St William’s last year for a school assembly, showing students the Commonwealth Games gold medal he won in the 1500m freestyle and the silver medal he claimed in the 400m freestyle.
Sam said that determination, perseverance and resilience were important for him to get the most out of his swimming.
“I enjoyed going back to the school because I went there with my older sister and younger brother,” Sam said.
“I was at the school when I started proper squad training for swimming. I was playing rugby league and soccer when I was young too but decided to really go with swimming.”
Sam’s move into the pool was sparked by the strong background his parents Nicole and Danny have in surf life saving.
Sam was told that he had to become a good swimmer before he could go into the surf on his own to catch the waves that have enticed his family for many years at Maroochydore Surf Life Saving Club.
Sam learnt quickly and he retains a love for surf life saving, still taking patrols at Maroochydore when he can find time around his swimming schedule and his study for a law degree at the Queensland University of Technology.
Sam’s 10 training sessions a week, under renowned coach Damien Jones at Rackley Swim Team, are complemented by three gym sessions and visits to the physiotherapist and massage therapist.
Sam is careful with his diet to make sure he’s eating the foods and receiving the hydration that can take help him get to Paris next year for a swim meet that shapes as one of the highlights of the Olympics.
“I’ve never been to an Olympics before so my aim is to qualify for Paris,” Sam said.
“I’ll be training through the rest of this year and then, from January 1 next year, the focus starts to move towards the Olympics.”
Photo by Wade Brennan