OLYMPIAN Deborah Tsai had a hurdle to overcome before perfecting her sport of synchronised swimming.
She was, she said, a dreadful swimmer.
“My parents got me into ‘synchro’ because they thought I was going to break my neck doing gymnastics,” Ms Tsai said.
“I don’t think they considered the fact that I was really bad at swimming – but once we got past that, it was good.”
The 22-year-old athlete is one of 27 Australia Day Ambassadors chosen by Australia Day WA to represent her country.
On January 26, Ms Tsai will take part in City of Cockburn celebrations at Coogee Beach, honouring the day and promoting her beloved sport.
“Our team came eighth overall at the Rio Games. For us, it wasn’t about winning medals – we’re not really ‘up there’ in the world – it was more about going with a good team and producing the best swims we could at that point in time and I think we achieved that goal,” Ms Tsai said.
“As ambassador, a big message I want to convey is: medals or no medals, we were all really proud to be Australian and to represent our country.
Ms Tsai was also keen to talk about funding issues affecting her sport.
“One huge challenge we have had over the years is that we are an unfunded Olympic sport, which means we pay our own way to the Games,” she said.
“So if you want to look for a sport where people are purely doing it for the passion, that’s our sport!”
Born in Singapore, Ms Tsai migrated to Perth in 2009 and became an Australian citizen to compete for the country.
“It was a trade-off for me because I had to give up my Singaporean citizenship – I couldn’t have dual citizenship,” she said.
“I came to Australia when I was 15, so I finished high school here and have lots of good mates – I have made my life here and I’m really more Australian than anything else.”
Each year Australia Day WA invites community members to become ambassadors, who are selected in recognition of their achievements and values.