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City Venue Management group unveils inaugural scholarship scheme for Queensland Olympic swimming hopefuls

City Venue Management group unveils inaugural scholarship scheme for Queensland Olympic swimming hopefuls
December 14, 2020

City Venue Management, operator of 23 learn-to-swim schools and facilities across South East Queensland under the Rackley Swimming brand, is funding a ‘groundbreaking’ scholarship scheme to support four of its Tokyo Olympic hopefuls – both in and out of the water.

The first four Tier One scholarship recipients, Brisbane-based Thomas Neill, Louis Townsend, Bronte Job and Carla Buchanan (pictured above) are all members of the Rackley Swim Team and have their sights set on the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Swimming Trials in Adelaide next June.

Freestylers Townsend and Buchanan have already represented the Australian Dolphins – Townsend at the 2017 FINA World Championships as a relay swimmer and 2018 World Short Course in the 100 metre freestyle and Buchanan at the 2016 and 2018 FINA World Short Course where she won two relay bronze medals.

Emerging distance freestyler Neill and backstroker Job were members of the Australian Team at the 2019 FINA World Juniors where Neill won four medals, two silver and two bronze and Job won gold in the 50 metre backstroke.

The announcement comes as over 1400 of Queensland’s best swimmers converge on the Brisbane Aquatic Centre at Chandler this week for the 2020 Queensland State Swimming Championships – the first major long course meet conducted in Australia since COVID-19 forced the world into lockdown and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics.

The meet, which officially opens Australia’s summer of swimming towards a new Olympic year, will feature all four of the Rackley Swim Team’s Tokyo Olympic hopefuls, who will headline a Rackley team of 112 swimmers – the most of any club entered over the week-long championships, who will contest 470 events.

The Queensland State Championships will kick start today, 12th December with relays and run through until 18th December at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre, Chandler with open events starting on 13th December.

The first foursome had to undergo a rigorous application and interview process before CVM announced them as the initial recipients and team ambassadors.

The Rackley Swimming Athlete Scholarship Program is the brainchild of City Venue Management (CVM) Chief Executive, Reece Rackley and Rackley Swim Team Centenary Head Coach Damien Jones.

In what is believed to be the first of its kind in the Australian swimming landscape, the athletes have been signed to 12-month contracts, receiving:

• Monthly financial support;
• All Squad, camp and training fees;
• Personal development mentoring/coaching;
• Marketing/Social and Media support/training; and
• Assistance in seeking personal sponsors.

The CVM group’s objective with the first 12-month scholarships is to provide a professional and collaborative approach to high-performance outcomes both in and out of the pool.

Rackley Swimming General Manager Squads and Sport Pathways, Anastasia Ellerby explained “our scheme will enable our athletes the ability to focus on benchmark events without the concern of financial load from physio/ massage/ travel/ camps and other support needed for optimum athlete development.

“The Tier One athletes will receive a monthly payment and will also be supplied with Rackley Swim team & Base gear with all squad fees included in the scholarship terms.

“It will also cover cost of support services such as personal profile workshops/mentoring and film and media training.

 “The athlete will contribute to Rackleys as a valued team member in the development of our programs, younger swimmers and industry reputation.

“We believe that their involvement in learn to swim and Squad clinics and events will drive the right culture and performance across all of the CVM sites.”

Reece Rackley added “this scheme is about creating something that is more like a performance enabler – there was this gap in the market that we recognised and we wanted to fill that gap.

“And fill it with a program which enables our athletes to really take that next step and receive reward and recognition and create a platform, with various tiers so as athletes improve they can step up to the next level.

“It is designed to give our swimmers a little bit more of a reward for their achievements, their dedication and hard work and gives us a platform to be able to build their profiles and create further benefits for them in our business and the program that runs a long side of it.

“And its often with less than desirable conditions, sometimes non-conducive to high performance sport – whether its picking up part time jobs…often forgoing things such as massage or nutritional support or psychology support or even sports medicine – support that creates an uneven playing field between the ones that are trying to reach the top and where they are now.

Rackley continued “we are supporting our home grown talent which is a big part of what we are trying to do. Develop young swimmers right through from learn to swim to elite squads and really have a pathway and this is the next evolution of that…trying to create a platform where we can level up our swimmers with those who are getting that high level support.

“One of the things we wanted to do for our top tier was to provide access to commercial opportunities and to come through as brand ambassadors and command a commercial value whether its things like media training and making them marketable, giving them profiles even if it’s within our own stable so we are creating heroes out of our own crop who can lead the next generation of Rackley Swimmers.”

Damien Jones, who coaches Neill, Job and Townsend, said it was five years ago when he first spoke to Reece Rackley about the game-changing scheme and advises “I’ve been with the company for seven years and I had a five-year plan of what I wanted it to look like – and it’s here.

“It was a junior program at that stage but I wanted to make sure that we were always looking ahead of where we currently were and what it could potentially look like in the future.

“It’s a tough sport swimming and I have had some good swimmers come through in the last couple of years who got to that crossroads of trying to work, train and go to University and you just can’t do everything at 100%.

“We needed a scheme to give them the best opportunity to achieve all of their goals and allowing them to get physio, massage and go to a dietician for example without them having to wait tables on their recovery days.

Jones added “I took that to Reece Rackley and we’ve been brainstorming the idea for the last few years and now we have finally come up with it this year.

“It is so exciting to get this scheme off the ground and see it in full swing – the athletes themselves can’t hide their excitement and gratitude.

“Its more than just the support too –this has morphed into leadership opportunities in the CVM business.

“It is more about the whole swimmer rather than just their performance in the water, so that’s the exciting thing about the program.

“It means they can focus purely on their swimming and not have to worry about anything else and it’s providing other avenues to improve them as people as well.

“The swimmers are the face of this program and they will front swim clinics which they all love doing in the school holiday period they are genuinely really excited about this opportunity.”

“Reece is an innovator who is looking for an edge. This program is a win-win for both the swimmer and the business.

Jones continued “CVM will have ready-made role models in their programs at all their sites and it’s time to tap in to them.

“They are great people as well as well as great swimmers and the interview process we went through was quite revealing and Reece walked away from our interviews saying we’ve got some great people and you know what we’ve got hundreds of them so why wouldn’t you want to invest in a Tom Neill, a Bronte Job, a Louis Townsend and a Carla Buchanan….great people with a great opportunity to do something special that not many people in the world get to experience.

“I feel that this will enhance their performances in the pool and not just for the financial support.

“It’s the presence of the Rackley Group getting behind these individuals and that’s going to lift them to the next level.

“If you’ve got a team behind you pushing, helping you to achieve then this is going to be an unbelievable experience…anything is possible.”

CVM will call for applications its Tier 2 Scholarship holders from within its group in the New Year.

The first four Tier One scholarship recipients are humbled and appreciative of the support and guidance when they swim and when they pursue new opportunities out of the pool.

Thomas Neill, aged 18, a four-time medallist at the 2019 FINA World Junior Championship winning silver in the 400m and 1500m and bronze over 400m and 4x200m freestyle relay, a World Junior record holder over 400m short course says it is an absolute privilege to be part of this new program alongside three top quality athletes in Louis Townsend, Bronte Job and Carla Buchanan.

“I’m excited to learn new things, not just in the water but out of the water – it is so important to get that swimming-life balance right this program will certainly help that.

“I’m in my first year at University studying Advanced Business at UQ and enjoying it and I’ve got plenty of mates doing the course as well.

“You learn skills at school but when you are thrown into adult life you are now trying to further your swimming career and your goals in sport of making Australian teams and also trying to be a normal human being, not just living a robotic lifestyle as an athlete.

“It’s difficult finding a balance between succeeding both in University and swimming and also fitting in a social life.

“The Rackley organisation is an entire family and a community I guess and I’m just grateful to be part of it and to be leading it.”

Louis Townsend, 22, a specialist 100m freestyler and breaststroker, has already represented Australia at both Junior Pan Pacs and Fina World Long Course and Short Course Championships, getting a taste of international swimming at the highest levels.

“It’s actually pretty life changing for me I guess…coming from a point where I didn’t really have any support.

“Swimming Australia always support you when you are on team but when you are not on team it’s just you and your coach – so being able to build a program where we can have various people to reach out to about different things it’s perfect to start building on.

“For me this program will be about personal development…finding ways to utilise my passions outside of swimming…to influence my life….I like to do a little in a lot of areas so I have interests in sport, Gaming and E Sports, Fine Arts, Movies and Television, so it’s a little bit of everything that I really like to dabble in…”

Bronte Job, 17, won gold in the 50m backstroke at the 2019 Junior World Championships, who has just completed Year 12 at All Hallows enthused “It is such a privilege to receive this scholarship. It’s amazing. We are so lucky and I’m the youngest person in the program and so I’m just so grateful to be part of it…and I’m really excited to kick it off and get everything behind me and for Rackleys to be supporting us…. and for them to hopefully support others as well.

“It is also a big weight off Mum and Dad’s shoulders – to have more people around me and supporting me; it is so good for everyone…

“It will help me to focus on my training and to work really hard and do everything that I can now that school is done I can get cracking and give my best at the Queensland State Championships and long term to try and represent Australia in the senior ranks, that would be awesome.”

Carla Buchanan, 25, who is coached by the experienced Shaun Crow, her coach for 20 years at the Hibiscus Leisure Centre, represented Australia at the 2016 and 2018 FINA World Short Course Championships where she won bronze for Australia in the 4x200m freestyle and 4x50m freestyle relays and she knows it will be a huge fillip with the Tokyo Olympic Trials in her sights next year.

“The main thing with this program, it’s going to help me continue on a little bit longer; I’d love to keep swimming and it will help me prolong my career and not having to go and get a job.

“It is a massive weight off my shoulders and not just the financial side of the program but learning about the other side of the business that can really help us; we can develop into completely different people…it’s amazing that CVM are willing to help us in so many different ways.

“I’m keen to dive in and make the most of what the program has to offer, like media training and everything that goes with that.”

Rackley Swimming Squad Programs
Rackley Swimming runs squad programs across 11 of its 23 locations in South East Queensland out of aquatic facilities at Centenary (Spring Hill), Chermside, Colmslie, Runcorn, Parkinson, Hibiscus (Mt Gravatt), Miami, Helensvale, Coomera and Kawana Waters.

The programs have an impressive line-up of coaches from Damien Jones to Australian Team Coaches Shaun Crow, Michael Sage & Raelene Ryan, Australian representative Zane King and Olympian and former world record holder Rebecca Brown.

Image, from left: Louis Townsend, Carla Buchanan, Bronte Job and Tom Neill.

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