Melissa Ingram has seized the initiative, dipped into her own pocket and made the most of what could be her final opportunity to compete at an Olympics.
Rather than stay home and train at North Shore's Millennium Institute with New Zealand's other high performance athletes after July's world championships, Ingram decided to invest her earnings offshore by racing the Asian legs of the World Cup 25m short course circuit. She earned podium finishes in Singapore, Beijing and Tokyo.
The 26-year-old is one of five New Zealand athletes - the others are Lauren Boyle, Gareth Kean, Daniel Bell and Glenn Snyders - who have set 'A' qualifying times in eight individual events for next year's London Olympics.
The women's 4 x 200m freestyle relay, of which Ingram hopes to be a part, will also compete. Ingram hopes to race the 400m freestyle at London, too, by qualifying at next year's national championships.
Swimming has faced a tough time in New Zealand lately. Caustic reviews of how it is run have been combined with criticism at a dearth of world championship or Olympic medals since 1996.
Ingram says the country's top swimmers deserve more respect: "I think the New Zealand public is unaware just how hard swimming is as a sport: it's truly global, compared to the likes of rugby.
"I can assure people we work our butts off, often training 30 hours a week and we're not getting the sort of money most sportspeople are. I just paid for my trip to the World Cups and didn't manage to break even so that sort of criticism is not the nicest thing to read. I think several swimmers will be in a position to challenge for an Olympic medal next year. You don't know what will happen on the day."
Ingram knows this could be her last Games because, as she says, "I'm definitely more the Grandma of the squad now". Her overseas punt included a month in Brisbane getting specialist coaching from Michael Bohl. Bohl coaches triple Olympic gold medallist Stephanie Rice and Meagen Nay, the athlete who currently has the world's third-fastest Olympic qualifying time in Ingram's specialist event, the 200m backstroke.
"Michael trains his swimmers hard and I enjoyed being part of a squad with a really good work ethic," Ingram says. "On a daily basis I'd go head-to-head with Meagen and I felt I matched her in training which gives me belief and confidence. Training with Olympic gold medallists [like Rice] is an amazing opportunity. I worked my butt off and got really fit, really fast, which showed at the World Cups."
Ingram won 200m backstroke gold medals in Tokyo and Beijing - where she broke the national short course record. She secured bronze in the same event in Singapore and earned silver in the 400m freestyle at Tokyo, breaking another national record. Ingram used the meets to focus on the speed of her starts and turns.
"The opportunity to fine-tune what you're doing from meet to meet is invaluable. It was always part of the plan to practise at those World Cups and measure myself against other top swimmers." That included beating the former world record holder for 200m short course backstroke, Japan's Shiho Sakai.
Ingram says her time away was worth the investment: " It was how I wanted to prepare before London. Some younger swimmers prefer to train at home but I've done that so much over the years. Don't get me wrong, I need to put in the long distance miles [to build a base fitness] but it's not quite as essential."
Ingram is certainly a veteran, having first represented New Zealand at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. She made the 200m backstroke semifinals at this year's world championships and the Beijing Olympics but has suffered her share of disappointment. She missed selection by fractions of a second at the 2003 and 2009 world championships and the 2004 Athens Olympics - those factors underline her determination this time.
Ingram is prepared to leave nothing to chance. The Herald on Sunday understands that could mean moving on from current coach Scott Talbot - potentially leaving the high performance coach with no Olympic swimmers - but she is too loyal to say.
"I'm now in the process of planning my pathway to London and I'm hoping Swimming New Zealand will help me with that.
"I was disappointed with my campaign at the world championships [15th in the 200m backstroke semifinalists], some mistakes were made with my programming. That won't happen before London."