By Stephen J. Thomas
CANBERRA, May 10. SARAH Ryan, one of the backbones of the Aussie women's team for almost a decade, has sprung a major surprise by withdrawing from the Australian World Championships team to concentrate on her fledgling radio career.
The loss of Ryan will have significant impact on the gold medal chances of the 400 free relay team, as the 26-year-old Ryan has been a regular member of Aussie teams since being selected for the '94 Commonwealth Games, with highlights including Atlanta (silver medalist 400 medley relay & finalist 100 free) and Sydney Olympics together with '98 and '01 World Championships teams.
At the 2001 World Championships, Ryan swam the anchor leg for the Aussie 400 medley relay win over Team USA. Then last year, together with Petria Thomas, Jodie Henry and Alice Mills, beat the Yanks for the first time in the 400 freestyle relay at the Pan Pacs. Ryan took considerable time off after Pan Pacs and considered retiring but made a late return to the pool to take fourth place in the national trials in March behind the dynamic teenage threesome Jodie Henry (19), Libby Lenton (18) and Alice Mills (16).
In 2002 Ryan clocked her PR 54.94 for the 100 free when she beat Henry at Aussie nationals – equal 10th fastest globally with American Lindsay Benko in 2002.
From this writer's point of view, Ryan would have been in better shape in July providing the ideal leader of a potentially sensational freestyle sprint team, and a real gold medal chance along with USA and world record-holder Germany.
This year Ryan has been juggling her new career on the morning show of a Canberra FM radio station and her swimming programme while on scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). The rigors of juggling work and training have taken their toll and as hard as she has tried, Ryan found it far too demanding in recent weeks.
She met with Australian Swimming’s High Performance Director Greg Hodge, AIS head coach Pierre La Fontaine and her coach Glenn Beringen yesterday afternoon, before finalising her decision. In her press release Ryan said;
"I thought I could do both but getting up at 4am and working through until midday has started to take its toll and I just can’t devote the time to training that I need to.
"I sat down with my husband and the coaches at the AIS and when the time came to make the decision to withdraw from the team I felt like it was an awful thing to do, because I know how good this Australian swim team is and particularly the women’s 400 freestyle relay team.
"But there just isn’t enough time in the day to do both well and I’m the kind of person who has to do something to the best of my ability. I just felt that at work I wasn’t fulfilling my end of the bargain and when you start a new job you have to dedicate yourself and if you don’t then I think it’s unprofessional."
The good news, for the Aussies at least, is that Ryan is not hanging up her suit.
"I’m certainly not going to stop training and I will sit down with the AIS strength and conditioning coach next week to map out a dry-land routine as well as staying in touch with the water. The Olympics is still very much on my mind and to go to my third Olympics in Athens next year would be fantastic. After being in Atlanta and Sydney, I would just love to be part of Athens," she said.