It may have been a disruptive year for sport due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the break from training and competition for Nelson Bay Swim Club members had many unexpected advantages, according to coach Tom Davis.
"Having a winter off was not such a bad thing," said Davis, now in his 10th year as head swim coach at the Tomaree pool.
"It has allowed the squad to rest up and come back refreshed, both physically and mentally. Since returning late last year many of the swimmers are feeling reinvigorated and have been bettering their personal best times."
Of the number of big improvers, 14-year-old Randal Ingram has caught the eye of Davis. Last month Ingram, along with swim fellow swim sensations Ebony Nix, 13, and Anekah Sargeant, 14, competed in the state swimming championships held at Sydney's Olympic pool in Homebush.
With the addition of longtime swim sensation Taylor Corry, 25, the Nelson Bay team of four swimmers returned home with an incredible six medals.
"Randal has come back from the break a much bigger and stronger lad... he has shot up over the winter," says Davis.
"While he finished fourth in the 200m and fifth in the 100m breaststroke events, he was competing against boys who are older than hims and will be moving up an age group in the nationals, to take place in April on the Gold Coast.
"With three of the boys who beat him at Homebush competing in a higher age group for the nationals, I expect Randal to take advantage and perform exceptionally well."
Also looking forward to the national titles is the exciting Ebony Nix, who collected silver and bronze medals at the state carnival in the 100m and 200m butterfly swims. Her best is yet to come, according to Davis.
"She is a natural butterfly stroker. Because of her stature she has virtually no resistance in the water, her powder weight ratio is brilliant and she has incredible flexibility," Davis said.
The club's other state competitor ,14-year-old Anekah Sargeant, just missed the finals in her backstroke events, clocking close to national times and will be better for the swim, predicts Davis.
The lone gold medal at the state meet was won by Tokyo Paralympics hopeful Taylor Corry, from Anna Bay, taking out her favourite event, the 100m butterfly.
After winning two silver medals in London in 2012 but missing out on attending the Rio Games in 2016, Corry was preparing for a comeback at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics before they were postponed due to COVID-19.
The Paralympics are now scheduled to be held from August 24 to September 5 (starting just a couple days after the finish of the Olympic Games) in Tokyo, and Corry says she is refocused and determined to not only make the team but also to achieve a podium finish.
"I am back to near my personal best times and aiming to peak for the trials in June. I have been training four hours a day plus adding a couple of gym sessions a week," she said.
"It would be nice to make amends in 2021 after missing out in 2016."
Corry could have a busy meet in Japan, in addition to the 100m backstroke, the proud Nelson Bay product is also hoping to qualify for the 100m backstroke, 200m individual medley and four by 100m relay.