Q&A: Melissa Ingram, former top swimmer

Melissa Ingram. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Melissa Ingram. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Q: Welcome Melissa. You retired from top level swimming in March. Now you're communications officer for Swimming New Zealand. Take us back to your first senior international meet ...

A: It was the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002 and I was 16. I remember being so nervous in my first race, a 200m freestyle heat, that I was shaking on the starting blocks and nearly fell in.

Q: Why did you quit at 27?

A: Basically if I wanted to keep going I needed to commit to another Olympic cycle and I couldn't see myself swimming at 31. I was confident I'd given everything to my career and was comfortable to retire.

Q: How about the high point of your New Zealand career?

A: It's hard to choose one. But if I had to it would be my first Olympic Games in Beijing and breaking my New Zealand record in the 200m backstroke heats.

Q: What's the best and worst thing about being an international swimmer?

A: The camaraderie and lifelong friends and the travel you get to do when you compete. The thing I liked the least was being tired all the time and having wet hair all the time.

Q: You've swum against some of the greats. Is there one who stands out as the best you competed against?

A: I always looked up to [American, 12-time Olympic medallist] Natalie Coughlin. She's won many medals and is the most amazingly talented swimmer, but she's humble, lovely and conducts herself really well on the pool deck. I was impressed with her not only as a swimmer but as a person, someone I always looked up to.

Q: Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

A: My supportive family because they were always there through the highs and lows. I've been very lucky to have many people help me through my career.

Q: Slightly digressing, Melissa, cheese or chocolate?

A: I do love both but I would pick cheese because it goes so well with wine.

Q: If you hadn't been a swimmer what sport would you have liked to pursue?

A: When I narrowly missed out on the Olympics in Athens in 2004, I seriously considered switching to rowing. I have had some moments when I've thought 'what if' but definitely no regrets. My grandad Errol Richardson rowed for New Zealand.

Q: Your impressions on the two male superstars of your time, Ian Thorpe and Michael Phelps?

A: I've met them both and they seemed like nice, humble people. They are both down to earth and for such superstars they were in touch with reality.

Q: So no regrets?

A: No, I made sure that I did everything that I wanted to do so when I did retire I could do so without regrets.

Q: What would you like to be doing in 10 years' time?

A: I see myself married with a family, and would love to have a successful career in PR, with happy and healthy family and friends.

- NZ Herald

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