Faith Leech Essay

Submitted By katkream
Words: 3759
Pages: 16

A tall and lean swimmer known for her elegant technique, Leech started swimming as a child to build strength after a series of eating disorders in her infancy. She quickly rose to prominence after breaking a string of age group records. In 1955, she became the youngest swimmer to win an Australian title, claiming victory in the 110 yd (100 m) at the age of 13. She twice broke the Australian record in the 100–yard freestyle in late 1955, thereby positioning herself as a leading contender for Olympic selection in 1956. Leech's preparation was hindered by illness, which forced her out of the 1956 Australian Championships, but she recovered to gain Olympic selection in both the 100 m freestyle and the corresponding relay. Leech produced a late surge to take bronze in the individual event and seal an Australian trifecta, before swimming the second leg in the relay to help secure an Australian victory in world record time. Leech retired after the Olympics at the age of 15; she cited anxiety caused by racing as one of the main factors in her decision.The second child of Johnstone Melmore and Jessie Francis Leech,[2] Leech was born in the inland regional Victorian town of Bendigo in Australia. Leech was named Faith after her elder sister, who died from leukaemia at the age of two.[3] A delicate child, Leech had an aversion to eating in the first two years of her life, so her mother fed her in small hourly doses. Leech was twice rushed from the family home to a Melbourne hospital. Conventional medicine failed to rectify Leech's dietary issues, so her mother put her on a fast for ten days at the recommendation of a naturopath. Leech was later placed on a diet of fruit, salad and vegetables, with an emphasis on beetroot and carrot juice.[3]
Leech's health improved, but she remained slight and frail, with a double curvature of the back.[4] In an effort to help her gain muscle control and confidence, her parents sent her to ballet, before trying swimming, a sport her mother had competed in. Aged six, she was taken to swimming classes while the family holidayed in the Mornington Peninsula. Leech was coached by Gus Froelich, a former European swimming champion and coach of Australian Olympic medallist Judy-Joy Davies. After a difficult start, Leech improved in her second year. At the Victorian Championships, she showed her potential by setting a state record of 17.4 seconds (s) for the 25 yd freestyle in the under-8 division. The following year, she covered 25 yd in 15.7 s, three seconds faster than Davies had done at the same age. She progressed steadily, sweeping the state age titles from nine to 13, setting records that were often faster than those by boys of the same age.[3]
Living in Bendigo and studying at Camp Hill Primary School,[4] Leech could only travel three times a year to train with Froelich, so she relied heavily on dry land simulations, such as a pulley attached to the kitchen door.[3] When she was 12, she covered 110 yd in 1 minute (min) 7.1 s, setting an unofficial world record for her age group.[5] This achievement prompted her parents to rent an apartment in Melbourne, so she could train with Froelich on a regular basis. Leech moved there with her mother, while her father stayed to look after the family's jewellery business. From 1954, Leech attended St. Michael's Girls' Grammar School and trained with Froelich on a daily basis at the City Baths.[5] The regular sessions paid off at the 1955 Victorian Championships; Leech won the open 110 yd and 220 yd freestyle in times of 1 min 7.2 s and 2 min 39.3 s respectively, setting state records in both events.[5] She proceeded to the Australian Championships, winning the 110 yd freestyle in 1 min 7.6 s to become the youngest ever winner of an open title at the age of 13. Leech also won the national junior 110 yd and 220 yd events.[5]
Leech's regimen differed from most swimmers because Froelich was not an advocate of distance training, and designed shorter workouts for his…