Olympic swimmer Liz Van Welie profile

This story appeared in the Otago Daily Times in New Zealand.

By ED M. ODEVEN
Special to the Otago Daily Times

FLAGSTAFF, Arizona, U.S.A. (July 10, 2002) — Nearing
the end of a physically demanding three-week training
session, swimmer Liz Van Welie is optimistic that her
hard work will pay off.

“It’s been going really well, but it’s extremely
hard,” the Alexandra native said before her Tuesday
afternoon workout at the High Altitude Sports Training
Complex at Northern Arizona University.

“I’m really tired this week, but it’s really
enjoyable,” she added, smiling.

Van Welie, a 22-year-old Olympian, arrived here on
June 19 and began training the following morning.
She’s vigorously preparing to compete in the
Commonwealth Games, which will be held July 25 to
August 4 in Manchester, England.

Initially, Van Welie was working out two hours each
morning and two hours each evening at the Wall Aquatic
Center. She increased her mileage and intensity last
week, upping her daily routine to 8,000 meters a
session from between 5,000 and 7,000 meters. She also
increased her workouts to 2 1/2 hours per sessions.

Van Welie has noticed a stark contrast between
training in Flagstaff’s high elevation (7,000 feet)
and training at sea level back home.

“It’s much harder [here],” she said, speaking of her
time in Arizona. “Your heart rate is up higher. It’s
so much easier to get your rate up to where you feel
like you are working. It’s also harder to feel good in
the water just because you are having to work that
much harder all the time.”

Stefan Laing, Van Welie’s coach who joined her on this
trip, said she has made a quick adjustment to
Flagstaff’s high altitude.

“Well, three weeks ago she was training in conditions
that were short course, in other words, a 25-meter
pool, relatively early in the morning in cold, cold
conditions at sea level,” Laing said.

“You come here and you’re at 7,000 feet and you’ve got
a 50-meter pool to work in and very thin air. I feel
that she’s coped with that change really really well,
too well in some cases.”

After a Friday morning workout, Laing and Van Welie
will fly to Los Angeles where they’ll meet up with the
New Zealand national swim team. Van Welie will have a
week to get re-acclimated to being at sea level. Then
the Kiwis will compete in the Janet Evans Invitational
in L.A.

Van Welie expects fatigue to play a factor in the
tune-up meet.

“Well, I’m going to be very tired at that meet after
coming back from altitude,” she admitted.

The meet, however, is not one that her coach considers
especially important meet in terms of speed and
results.

“We are not really looking at the times,” Laing said.
“We are looking at the consistency, really. It’s
getting difficult to gauge, but that’s what we’ll be
trying to do from the meet, actually to see exactly
where she is at, rather than look at the results. It’d
be nice to make finals but if we don’t, we don’t.”

For Van Welie, a sense of sense of accomplishment sums
up her visit to Arizona. And now, she’s anxious for
what lies ahead in England, where she’ll compete in
the 100 and 200 butterfly events and 200 and 400
individual medley races.

“I’m pretty relaxed about it,” she said after munching
on a strawberry jam sandwich. “It’s a little bit hard
to judge at the moment because I’m in the midst of a
long, hard training (period).

“I can see an end to it now because it’s over on
Friday. But yeah I’m relaxed. I’m really excited about
it, because things have gone well here. I just hope
things will go awesome when I get back down to sea
level.”

Van Welie said she’s grateful for the financial
support her hometown has given her. She added that the
trip has been well worth it.

“It’s been fantastic, beneficial and hopefully it will
work wonders,” Van Welie concluded.

Carefully choosing his words, Laing said Van Welie is
well-prepared to be successful at the Commonwealth
Games.

“Well, I’m excited by what I see,” the coach
commented. “It’s early days yet. We still don’t have
any idea of the opposition so we can only judge it by
what we’re doing; and as I say, she’s on course for
personal-best times. But there are a lot of factors
involved in getting there.

“I think she’s going to do well. She’s prime, really,
to bring it on,” Laing said.

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