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Tara Coleman – I Still Call Maroubra Home

By Dan Hutton on May 29, 2015 in People

Photo: Andrew Goldie

Photo: Andrew Goldie

Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from Rosebery, but the beach I call home is Maroubra Beach.

How long have you been a member of the surf club there?
I started surf lifesaving when I was 12. I did a couple of years at South Maroubra and then I joined Maroubra when I was about 17. Three seasons ago I made the decision to go up to North Burleigh and train up there. I still remain a member at Maroubra and do my patrols there though.

Why did you make the move up to the Gold Coast?
A lot of the top girls and top guys in my sport are from the Gold Coast now. Some of them are from NSW, but they all made the change to go up there and I thought, ‘I only have one shot at this’. I don’t want to finish my career and be like, Oh, I could have gone to Queensland’. I thought I should give it a shot and go up there, and train with the likes of Liz Pluimers and Brodie Moir.

Are the facilities up there better?
Yeah, I guess. The facilities are good for my swimming, and the weather in winter is much warmer. You want to train. I’ve done plenty of years down in Sydney in the winter, and it’s much easier to stay motivated up north.

What do you love about the Eastern Suburbs?
Firstly, I love that my family and all my friends are here. All my friends from school and my whole family live in the Eastern Suburbs. I think the Eastern Suburbs has the best beaches in Australia too. I’ve travelled around Australia racing and I have to say that our coastline is the best.

Do you have a favourite beach?
Maroubra Beach.

Is there anything that gets your goat about the Eastern Suburbs?
There are a lot of people here now. When I was younger, I didn’t really go out as much, but it seems like there are so many more people in Sydney now.

How do your family and friends feel about you leaving Sydney and moving up to the Gold Coast?
They’re all really supportive, but I think deep down they do miss me. They do come up and visit, and I come to Sydney quite a lot. They want the best for me.

What about your surf club pals; were they annoyed that you decided to pull on the colours of a different club?
No, Maroubra was very supportive with the move. They just want to see me reach my full potential. I still do my patrols at Maroubra, and I’ve been doing that for nearly 10 years. It’s actually this year that I get my long service.
Both of your parents were elite sports people: your dad played and coached for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and your mum was an Australian touch player; was it always your dream to follow in their footsteps and make a career in sport?

Yeah, when I was younger I did some swimming, running, cross country and netball, but then it came time to choose. I only started surf lifesaving when I was 12. Usually with surf lifesaving you start as a really young nipper at the age of six, so I had a lot of skills to develop because I didn’t start when I was really young. I didn’t make the professional series until I was about 19.

Are you quite small compared to the other iron women?
I’m extremely small. They tower over me, but my dad always says it’s not how big you are, it’s what’s inside you.

How much time do you spend on the Gold Coast compared to down here?
We start training in June and it finishes in April, so I usually spend the six-week off-season in Sydney and the rest of the time on the Gold Coast, besides the weekends when I come to Sydney for patrols, racing or when I’m travelling Australia racing for the Kellogg’s Series.

Can you tell us more about the Kellogg’s Series?
This season of the Kellogg’s Nutri Grain series coming up is going to consist of 18 men and 18 women from around Australia. This year I don’t have to do the trial, which is the first time I’ve been in that situation. I’ve always had to do the trial, so I train the whole of winter and then do a trial around September. I actually got an automatic qualification this time around, which I’m so happy about.

Out of the 18 competitors, where do you see yourself finishing?
I’d love to get an automatic qualification again and I’d like to make the podium this year. I’m 24 turning 25, so I really need to step up and actually try to get a podium, and get in the top eight again to automatically qualify.

Have you had a podium before?
I actually had a podium in my first Kellogg’s series event. I got a third at Coolum, but that’s the only podium I’ve had. There was only one foot of swell and I remember my handler Darren Schott telling me there was this point tip on Coolum at the surf club. He said to aim for that in the swim; if any wave was to come through that’s where I’d get it. I was swimming in and one little wave popped up and that just changed the whole race. They were really long runs at that stage, so there was about a 400 to 800-metre run at the end. I ran past a couple girls on the sand and beat one of my best friends over the line for third spot.

Do you feel like you’re getting closer to getting regular podiums?
I’d like to think so. Last year was the best result I’ve ever had. I got tenth in the series and I got a sixth place in one event. I would like to keep getting more of those and hopefully crack the podium.

Did your parents instil some important lessons in you at a young age that have helped you in your career?
Yeah, they’re really supportive. They’ve shown me the way, and taught me that when things get don’t give up. Never give up. Keep banging on the door because one day that door will open. Two years ago I missed out on getting into the series and I was the next reserve. I was devastated. Mum and Dad just said to keep training because you never know what could happen. Unfortunately Hayley Bateup had to pull out and it was fortunate for me that I was the next in line, so I got her spot.

How many seasons have you done now?
I’ve done five years already with Kellogg’s series and this 2015 16 season will be my sixth.

How old were you when you decided to really pursue it as a career?
I was probably around 17 when I thought I really liked the sport and I started getting a few more decent results than what I had in the past. One of my coaches back then said to me, “We’re just going to put you in the trial, see how you go, get a few years’ experience and then in a couple of years you’ll be in the series.” He was correct. I guess it wasn’t until I entered the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain trials when I was younger that I thought, ‘This is what I really want to do’ I want to be in this series’.

How long do you see your career going for? When do ironwomen retire?
It’s funny you say that because some girls who are racing now are 30 and the girls at the top of our sport are around 28, so I still have a few years to go.

Do you have to hold down another job or have you got enough money coming in through sponsorship to allow you to train full-time?
Sponsors are everything in our sport. Without sponsors I wouldn’t be able to do the Kellogg’s Nutri Grain Series or the sport in general. I do have a job though, with Surf Lifesaving Queensland in their community awareness program. We go around to schools and talk to them about surf safety and where to swim when they come to the beach. We also take surf groups down to the beach, like multicultural groups that come over from overseas, and teach them about surf safety.

Is it expensive to compete in the Kellogg’s series?
Yeah it is expensive to compete in the Kellogg’s series as we travel to all different beaches around Australia.

What have you had to overcome to get where you are now?
I haven’t had any serious injuries that have set me back. The whole thing of going to the Gold Coast has been hard. Some days I’m like, ‘Oh, crap, is it really worth it?’ I really miss my family as well. Thankfully I’ve got a lot of new friends up there and there’s also a family up there that I’m lucky to live with. They took me in and let me live in their house.

What has been your biggest accomplishment thus far?
I think staying in the series. That’s obviously a lot of girls’ goal in surf lifesaving, to be in the Kellogg’s series, and also to do well at the Australian titles and the Coolangatta Gold. Everyone wants to win the Coolangatta Gold and everyone wants to win an Aussie medal.

What’s your best result at the Aussies and Coolangatta Gold?
At the Coolangatta Gold, my best is a fifth. At the Aussies, which just finished a couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get a gold medal in the board relay and a third in a taplin relay with my two teammates. There’s no better feeling than winning a gold medal with your teammates, and that was the second year in a row that we had won the board relay.

What are your goals for the 2015/16 season?
I want to make the automatic qualification for the Kellogg’s series again, which I think will be the top eight. If I do the Coolangatta Gold, which I’m not too sure about yet, top five in that would be great. Top three would be even better, but it’ll be a very tough field. I’d like to podium and be in the Australian Open Ironwoman final next year too.

What are your biggest strengths as an athlete?
I guess I have a lot of willpower and determination. I would also say I don’t like to give up; I fight to the end. One time at the Aussies I knocked my two front teeth out. I was paddling over a wave on a ski and knocked my teeth straight out. I finished that race off and I did the next race. People asked, “Are you crazy? What are you doing?” I said, “They’re not bleeding; I want to finish these races.”

What do you struggle with most when competing?
When I was younger I used to get really nervous while competing. Over the years I have had a lot more experience so I think that’s why I don’t get as nervous anymore.

What’s your training program like?
We train from Monday to Saturday; I swim five mornings a week, which starts at 5.30am in the pool. I then either go to a gym session or a run session, and then I come back to the beach in the afternoon for a craft session. Our Saturday mornings are our biggest session, then we get the rest of the weekend off unless we have carnivals on.

How many hours a week do you train?
More than 20 hours, I reckon.

How many kilometres would you do in a pool session?
Our swim sessions can average between 5.5km and 7km throughout the season, depending on what part of the season we are in.

Do you have an eating plan as well as a training schedule?
While training and racing I tend to eat the same foods day in, day out.

Do you ever get on the booze after an event?
No, I don’t drink alcohol. I have actually never had a drop of it!

Are there any other girls in the series that don’t drink?
I’m not too sure.

Growing up did you have any other interesting talents, sporting or otherwise?
I used to play quite a few sports when I was younger. I used to do netball, basketball, athletics, cross country, swimming and Oztag, but at the end of the day I couldn’t keep doing all those sports.

What will you do when your ironwoman career comes to an end? Do you have a back-up plan?
That’s a really good question. I actually don’t really know what I would like to do. I guess I’d like to help people, whether it be coming back as a coach or something else. I found that a lot of people put a lot of time into me when I was young and I feel like I need to give back somehow.

Do you see yourself back at Maroubra Surf Club one day helping out down there?
Hopefully in a few years’ time or when I retire, if I come back to Sydney, that’s obviously what I’d like to do. I’m from Maroubra and I’d love to come back and help the kids from my home beach.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given and what advice would you give to young athletes trying to get to where you are today?
Definitely never give up. Just keep knocking on that door. You might think you’re never going to get there, and I used to think the same thing, but my parents always told me to just keep going at it and one day you’ll eventually knock that wall down and you will be there. Just keep training away, stay dedicated and believe in yourself.

I assume you’re a Bunnies fan?
I love South Sydney.

How did you celebrate the grand final win last year?
Dad said, “If they make the grand final, we’re going to go”. I was up on the Gold Coast at that stage training for the Kellogg’s series and I didn’t want to miss too many sessions,but then I thought, ‘No, I’ve got to go to the grand final’. My dad and his mates all went, and we had a little box. It was one of the best nights I’ve ever had, to see the Bunnies win the grand final. Oh, it was awesome!

Is your old man still involved with the club?
He goes to all the functions but he doesn’t do any coaching anymore. I have a younger brother, Liam, who is now coming up through the ranks and he’s in the under 20s at Souths. I go and watch him play whenever I can.

Did your old man party after the win?
He did, actually. We walked out of the stadium and everyone was yelling out ‘Tugger Coleman’, and then they chaired him out of the stadium. He played for the Bunnies years ago and they chaired him out!

Do you support any charities?
I’m an ambassador for Barnardos. They have the Barnardos Beach Bolt run coming up on June 14 at Coogee Beach and I’m getting right behind that.

Are you competing in the event?
Yes, I will be. It’s a one-mile run, from the south to the north end of Coogee. It’s run from the track up near Wylie’s Baths, along the sand and up the hill to finish line at Dunningham Reserve.

How did you become involved with Barnardos?
Pete Wilson from Barnardos emailed me and said, “I’m running the Beach Bolt down at Coogee. You’re a local girl; I’m wondering if you would be able to help out and be an ambassador?” I said, “Sure, why not?” It’s a really good charity and I’m more than happy to support it and run in the event.

What can you tell us about Barnardos?
They’re one of Australia’s leading child protection charities. Every kid deserves to come from a stable and loving home. I’m fortunate enough that I had a great upbringing and I don’t see why every other child shouldn’t be brought the way I was. The Beach Bolt event in Coogee will be an opportunity for all the community to come together, not only for a great day out at the beach but also to raise awareness and funds for a very worthy charity that supports children and families in need.

Do you have a favourite ironman?
I’d have to say Kane Heussner.

Who are your sponsors?
Rival Swimwear, Body Science, Dolphin Surf Craft, McGrath Real Estate, Surfside Plumbing, Clovelly Hotel, East Gardens Fruit Centre, Erskineville-Alexandria Bowling Club, PSG Holdings, Benchmark Physiotherapy Rosebery, STM Snow, Surf & Skate, the Randwick Club, TJ’s Cleaning Service, Surf Life Physio Gold Coast, Ford Civil Constructions and Command 51.

Do you have any favourite local haunts?
I like to go to The Hub at Coogee Beach; it’s just opened up and it’s so good.

In an ideal world what does the future hold for Tara Coleman?
I’d like to get to the top of my sport and I’d obviously love to win a round of the Kellogg’s Nutri Grain Series. I would also like to find a career that I enjoy and I love waking up to, and have a healthy and happy family.