Macarthur’s own Natalie Van Coevorden seems to be on track to represent Australia at the Tokyo Olympics in July.
But there’s still two big “ifs”. First…will the former John Therry High School student’s results in Leeds this week be enough to secure her spot in the Australian team? Second…will the Tokyo Games go ahead?
It’s already been postponed once and, as Japan suffers a fourth wave of COVID-19, there is a frenzy of news articles asking if the Olympics – scheduled for 23 July to 8 August – will be cancelled.
Either way, Campbelltown Catholic Club is backing our local champion all the way. Its longstanding financial support has just been topped with more funding to help support Natalie in her qualifying races, and extended her free Aquafit membership.
That hometown support has put a huge smile on her face as she hits the World Triathlon championships at Leeds on 5-6 June.
“Thank you, Catholic Club,” she said, “I know my time in Campbelltown and my career all over the world would not be the same without your continued support.”
Before heading overseas, Natalie could often be spotted at Aquafit taking advantage of its world class strength-training and pool facilities.
“I have been part of Aquafit since 2009 and bumping into people on the pool deck and upstairs in the gym, I have kept and created new friendships with complete strangers and old friends,” she said.
“Aquafit has really created a bubble of people that follow my journey and it is always nice when people say they have read something in the paper or followed me online for a race. I always walk out the door with a smile.”
Even when gyms were closed in the pandemic, the Catholic Club stepped up.
“I couldn’t have completed 2020 a healthy, robust and strong athlete without the home support that allowed me to walk five metres to my home gym that was filled with Aquafit equipment,” she said. “You allowed me to continue to train and continue to maintain my world class level for my training and racing.”
Natalie was born and bred in Campbelltown, doing both swimming and cross country running throughout her years at John Therry Catholic High School in Rosemeadow. But it was at Our Lady Help of Christians Primary School next door that she says she “found my sporting feet”.
“I went from wanting to sit in a classroom and watching TV when cross country was on,” she said, “to winning a few years later. “By the end of my primary school journey, I was competing at state levels across a few sports.
“John Therry then really let me excel and I definitely grabbed those opportunities with both hands. I was committed to both sports but also excelling in school which I think transferred across both areas. “Every morning of my high school life, I was up at 4.45am making the trip to Bradbury Pools to start swim squad before school and I was back there in the afternoon.
“My parents were always very supportive but also let me control my sporting journey. My mum used to say it was my responsibility to get her up to take me, not the other way around which really made me take ownership.
“I won NSW state cross country in 2008. Swimming, netball on the weekends and running around the block of Glen Alpine really created a balance for me outside school and I found many future friends out of this.”
In 2009 she began triathlon, placed 4th at the Australian National Schools Triathlon the following year, and by 2012 was competing in her first World Triathlon Series. The Olympics is now her big goal – hopefully following in the footsteps of Campbelltown’s Erin Densham – also backed by the Catholic Club.
“Erin Densham I would say was my local sporting hero,” Natalie said. “She also went to John Therry and, at the time, I thought it would be pretty cool to try to end up where she was. I still hope that I have the opportunity to qualify for two games.”
She dearly misses home as she competes overseas. “Coming back to Glen Alpine is a familiar place that I enjoy. I cycle a lot in the Camden area and run a mix between Glen Alpine and the Camden Equestrian centre. “The Camden equestrian centre is probably one my favourite places to run with big grass fields and gravel trails. The peace and quiet out there makes me in a great mind space for my sessions.”
And the Catholic Club is always a big part of her local memories. “When I was 11 and 12, I had the best birthday parties there. It was like a mini Sunday night disco. We would have a great buffet of food, a huge dance floor and create lolly bags for people to go home with. “Later in life I had my year 10 formal, year 11 social and year 12 formal there. “I feel like the Catholic Club was a place in my memory that brought people together and I have nothing but fond memories.”
We wish Natalie all the best as we cheer her on from home.