Lani Pallister Will Prepare For The Tokyo Olympic Trials On Gold Coast after Mum Janelle’s Coaching Switch

LANI ON THE MOVE: Olympic hopeful Lani Pallister moves to the Gold Coast with coaching mum Janelle. Photo Courtesy: FINA / Budapest 2019.

Triple World Junior champion and Tokyo Olympic hopeful Lani Pallister will prepare for next year’s Tokyo Trials on the Gold Coast after her coaching mum Janelle Pallister accepted an offer she just couldn’t refuse.

Janelle Pallister, who swam at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul as Janelle Elford, has accepted the position to coach alongside, the highly respected Australian Olympic gold medal coach Michael Bohl at his High Performance Program at Griffith University.

And in what has turned out to be a perfect switch, the man she replaces on the pool deck at Griffith, 2012 Olympian-come-respected coach Chris Wright, will take over Pallister’s role at the Swim Fit Cotton Tree Aquatic Centre…..(but that’s a twist which I will come back to you with later in the story).

A highly respected and successful mother-daughter combination of Janelle and Lani made a tearful farewell from their successful Sunshine Coast headquarters with a cake, hugs, selfies and fond farewells.


WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID: Janelle Pallister, daughter Lani and Olympic legend Dawn Fraser share a laugh. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

It could well prove to be a crucial life-changing move for both swimmer and coach – a move that tore at Janelle’s heartstrings – between her own career, her daughter’s career and a “swimming family” that adored her coaching, her wisdom and her life skills – a coach on a pathway to greatness.

For Lani, who won the 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle at last year’s Fina World Juniors in Budapest and recently set two new Australian short course records over 800 and 1500m freestyle, she will join one of the best elite squads in the country as she spends the next six months preparing for the Olympic Trials in Adelaide next June.

A high performance program at Griffith that includes Olympians Emma McKeon, her brother David McKeon, Emily Seebohm, Taylor McKeown and Thomas Fraser-Holmes as well as leading National backstroker Jessica Unicomb and young guns Flynn Baildon and Lucinda Macleod.

Janelle admitted she had restless and sleepness nights before making the decision and telling her Cotton Tree squad members and their families.

“I have been offered a job by Michael Bohl to co-coach with him at Griffith University – I consider Bohly to be one of the best coaches in the world so this is a true honour,” Janelle wrote.

“I am very sad to be leaving Cotton Tree but also excited to see what I can do on the Gold Coast.

“We have been able to build an incredible squad at here and we crossed many different sectors from stillwater to open water, surf lifesaving, surfing, football, hockey, netball, water polo, soccer, athletics, triathlon and I’m sure I’ve probably forgotten a sport.

“We have junior world champions, surf lifesaving world champions, National champions, State champions, Aussie reps, State reps and Sunshine Coast reps.

“So to say I’m incredibly proud is an understatement – this will never be goodbye it will just be see you soon and soon maybe next week, next month or next year.

“Thank you for all your trust and support over my time, some of you I have coached for over 10 years – some are like my own children; I have watched you grow stubble and succeed.

“ I am so thankful to be part of this journey and I wish every single one of my squad members all the very best.”

But one door closes and another one opens and in what became a perfect switch with an extraordinary twist.

The man who was forced to depart as Bohl’s assistant coach, 2012 Olympian Chris Wright, will now take over Janelle Pallister’s role at Cotton Tree in what will be a seamless transition for all.

Wright has spent the last four years coaching alongside Michael Bohl at Griffith University, coaching multiple Australian and Queensland Age Group medallists and finalists.

And why the move to the Sunshine Coast?

Well, Wright’s fellow Olympian and wife, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic relay gold medallist Mel Wright (nee Schlanger) now Dr Mel Wright, will begin an internship at Sunshine Coast Hospital after graduating from Bond University earlier this month – forcing the family move with their two young children to the Sunshine Coast – and it’s also a move back home for Mel.

Dr Wright first started studying in 2005, notching up a Bachelor of Biomedical Science, then an MBA, then a Bachelor of Medical Studies and a Doctor of Medicine.

And in an announcement earlier today Cotton Tree Swim Fit said: “By now most of the swimming community would be aware that the amazing Janelle Pallister has decided to take a coaching position on the Gold Coach with Australian and Olympic Team Coach Michael Bohl.

“We are grateful and appreciate the time, commitment and effort that Janelle has contributed to many swimmers on the Sunshine Coast and more recently in the position of Head Swim Coach at the Cotton Tree Aquatic Centre.

“We at Swim Fit wish Janelle and her family all the best and the greatest of success moving forward with the new opportunities and experiences that they will have on the Gold Coast.

“As a result, it is with great pleasure we wish to announce the appointment of Chris Wright to the position of Head Coach at the Cotton Tree Aquatic Centre commencing Monday 4th January 2021.

“Chris is (also) an Olympian and current nationally accredited Silver Licence (Advanced) swimming coach who has a successful history of coaching high-performing athletes, squads and clubs throughout Queensland.

“We are extremely excited to have Chris join our Swim Fit Cotton Tree Team and expect to see Chris on pool deck in a few short weeks.”

And for Bohl, a case of one door closes and another one opens.

“After three years we are losing Chris Wright who will be leaving after the Queensland State Titles and luckily enough Janelle Pallister will be moving into his slot,” said Bohl.

“Chris has really done a good job with the younger swimmers developing them for medals at State and National titles and Lucinda Macleod has just been named in the National Flippers Squad.

“It’s disappointing but one door closes and another one opens, which is often the case…”

Michael Bohl on deck alone

PERFECT LANDING: Griffith University Head Coach  Michael Bohl directing traffic. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Lani is not new to the Michael Bohl program and has been a regular visiting member fore the past 18 months….

“Lani was originally coming down and doing one or two sessions a week…and it morphed into her coming in from anywhere between one week and four weeks…so she has done quite a few stints with us on and off…she has recently done two weeks up in Cairns with our group…” said Bohl.

“Chris informed us four to six ago that it would be difficult for him to remain inn the program, although he toyed with the idea of commuting but with a one -year-old and a three-year-old it was always going to be way too hard to do and together we agreed it would be impossible to keep doing what we are doing and let’s look at the alternatives.

“And we both agreed that Janelle would be a great option …she’s also got the experience of being an Olympian (Seoul 1988) herself…she is doing a good job with all her swimmers, obviously Lani has been her most prolific swimmer, but also young Jamie Perkins who is also developing quite nicely.

“Janelle is really keen to pursue her coaching career…and we had done quite a bit of work in the past, in 2017, Swimming Queensland had a mentoring coaching program where they paired up a young coach with a senior coach and I was actually paired up with Janelle.

“She came to Brisbane to meet with me and we did a bit over the phone and she presented at a Conference talking about the time she spent with me on her learning, so we’ll already had that relationship there…and I’m good friends with Dick Caine, her former coach.”

Janelle is one of 40 coaches across 35 sports who has just completed a unique 26-week online coaching development course run by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and La Trobe University.

The inaugural AIS Elevate e-Coach program was developed and conducted to overcome COVID restrictions, working exclusively with pathway coaches who are mentoring emerging athletes. Pallister worked as a flight attendant after finishing her swimming career. Her coaching career began by accident when she filled in as an instructor for her two toddlers at learn-to-swim classes.

Lani Pallister and Micvhael Bohl

NEW HANDS ON DECK: Coach Michael Bohl and Lani Pallister. Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media.

She said she had no ambitions to be a coach, but from a tiny speck of sand it kept getting bigger and bigger.

“It’s been evolving ever since and now I’ve been offered a job to work with Michael. I’ve developed myself to a certain level, but I need to expose myself to the next level and that’s a leap of faith. I’ve always said to my athletes ‘what do you lose by having a go?’. I need to take my own advice,” said coach Pallister.

“If I can develop myself and my athletes that we can both make Olympic teams, that’d be awesome.

“I do believe Lani will be an Olympian one day, whether that’s next year or in three years [in Paris 2024]. But she’s got to continue to love it and get the best out of herself. It would be an amazing story.

“Throughout the years it’s had its challenges for Lani and I, two very strong-headed women.

“So we developed a strategy that as soon as we walk through the pool gate, Lani was the athlete and I was the coach. Then when we walked through the gate to go home, Lani was the daughter and I was the mum. To this day we still only speak about swimming at home if Lani brings it up.

“As a coach I’ve slowly developed her along, there’s no point being a champion at 10. You get to the top of the mountain with little steps along the way, you risk running out of puff if you’re taking big steps early on.

“Every year we’ve added another tool to the tool-belt and I believe there’s still more development in her to be better.

“As a mum, I’m just extremely proud. I always tell her ‘swimming is what you do, not who you are’.”

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1 year ago

Great new adventure Janelle ! Congratulations to you.

1 year ago

Sue you moving south??

1 year ago
Reply to  Rowena Clarke

Rowena ?

1 year ago
Reply to  Rowena Clarke

Back to Northern Beaches.