Richland swimmer Lisa Bratton will compete this week at the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia. She flew with the U.S. team from Los Angeles to Australia a day after the conclusion of the U.S. national championships in Irvine, Calif., and has been training in Brisbane.
Bratton, an incoming Texas A&M freshman, will swim three events at Pan Pacs: the 100- and 200-meter backstroke and the 200 individual medley. She has been chronicling her experience in Australia for the Herald.
Even though it’s winter, the weather’s similar to our spring weather at home. It rained the past two days, but today is sunny and nice. The mornings are quite chilly, especially when swimming outside, but the afternoons warm up a bit. You still want a jacket with shorts or pants with a T-shirt. I did not bring any clothes that I own besides two pairs of shorts and a pair of sweats. But I’m not sure if I’m allowed to wear the sweats much because they say Speedo and we are Arena sponsored. I’m wishing I had brought more pants, but I’m making it work! I had to do a load of socks in the bathtub today because I didn’t have enough! I only brought six pairs because that’s all I had in Irvine!
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Yesterday (Saturday) was by far the best day yet! We got to go to a koala sanctuary/zoo. First we got to hold a koala, which was amazing! They are soft, not like a blanket, but still soft. Little more coarse than expected! And kinda heavy! They tell you to stand like a tree, and the koala claws onto your shoulders. And their claws are sharp! I wasn’t expecting it to hurt like it did, but definitely worth it! Then we bought some kangaroo food and fed kangaroos. They let you go into their enclosure and feed them. They were really sweet and just ate right out of your hand. You could feel their teeth on your hand a bit! I washed my hands like three times afterward! We also saw some birds, Tasmanian devils (super ugly!) and a platypus! It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
I have also been able to get out and walk around the town (Brisbane) a bit. It doesn’t feel like we are this far away from home. The town feels like a small, less-populated San Francisco. I have already done some souvenir shopping as well! Dinner was out on our own the other night, and we went to a pizza/pasta place, which was really good! We are eating dinner out again tonight, and I’m not sure where I’m going yet. I kinda wanna go back and have pizza this time. I had gnocchi the first time.
As far as swimming, we have just been practicing. I’m starting to feel good in the water, and I’m getting excited to race! I did pace the other day, and it went really well! The nice thing is if something hurts or is tight, you can go get a massage in the afternoon for free! I’ve had two already! They feel amazing!!
I am still in Brisbane, but we leave for the Gold Coast tomorrow (Monday). We were here for a week to stay separate from the other countries, and so we had more availability in pool times and space.
Once you qualify for one race, you can swim whatever you want. I could have swam the 100 breast if I wanted, but that would be embarrassing! Haha! So I signed up for the three races. I didn’t feel like swimming the 400 IM again, so I didn’t sign up for it. I’m a little nervous for the 200 IM, because it’s not as strong as my backstroke and I haven’t been training much IM right now, but seeing that I wasn’t seeded dead last was a huge confidence booster. And I think it’s my last race, so I’ll just have fun with it! Most days I have practice in the morning and afternoon, but today (Sunday) and Friday I had the afternoon off. It all depends on how we are feeling and what our coach says.
It’s been great having the A&M girls here (Cammile Adams and Breeja Larson). They have been good about checking in on me and making sure I’m doing OK, especially the first couple days when everything is super overwhelming. They haven’t talked a lot about school and the team except that everyone (the girls, Chris Barttelbort, our academic adviser, and head coach Steve Bultman) will be really helpful in making up the meetings that I need to since I missed my new student conference and helping me get settled. Cammile has been helping me schedule my flight from L.A. to school. They are both just really excited to have me on the team, and I’m really excited as well!
The first couple days, I couldn’t believe that I was around all these big names and that they, mostly the girls, were actually talking to me. The first day in L.A., they put us up in a day room at the Marriott since our flight wasn’t until the evening. They did the rooms alphabetical so Elizabeth Beisel, Claire Donahue, Maya DiRado and I shared a room. I couldn’t believe that I was in the same room as Beisel. On the bus to L.A., I was next to Cammile, behind Missy (Franklin), with Tyler Clary next to her and Ryan Lochte across the aisle from Cammile. It was weird. But now I’m getting more used to being with them. I went for dinner with Missy, Cammile, Beisel, (Elizabeth) Pelton, Caitlin Leverenz, Rachel Bootsma, Kathleen Baker and Maddie Locus (my roommate). They are all super nice and welcoming!
As for media attention, we had a media day when they could come to the pool for a couple hours while we swam, and they talked to the big names, but that was it.
I think it all finally set in once I got on the plane and landed here. The meet still seems far away because we have been here for a while already and I have been enjoying just being here. I think once we get to the coast tomorrow, the meet will sink in even more. The nice part about being here is that it feels similar to home (I think I already said that, but that could have been a different email). The first two days were really hard and scary for me, but now I’m fine. I’m having a great time and loving this opportunity!