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 ...


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.