When Brad Woodward launches his World Aquatics Championships campaign for Australia later today, he’ll hit the pool in Doha hardened by a pre-Christmas tour de force in which he contested 18 races during a 16-day period.

The New South Wales Institute of Sport [NSWIS] scholarship athlete competed in the Japan Open in Tokyo, the Queensland Championships in Brisbane, and then at the NSW Senior Championships in Sydney. And taking on the obstacles of travel, and different time zones proved worthwhile with the records documenting he enjoyed eight victories and a second; a Personal Best, and three Olympic qualifier times for the 200m backstroke event.

Indeed, the 1:55.56 Woodward clocked in Tokyo is not only his PB, but it’s now in the record books as the third fastest All-time Australian, plus it would also have resulted in a fourth place finish at last year’s World Aquatics final.

The 25-year-old from the NSW Central Coast said the tough schedule was ideal because it provided him with the perfect opportunity to open his engine and to do what he loves most.

“It was just a good chance to race,” he said. “That was one thing for me the last couple of years is – especially during COVID – we didn’t get the chance to race as much. We’d train, train and train and it always felt like I had more in the tank.

“I kind of felt I almost wasn’t race ready. I race to fitness a lot, so, for me, I was really excited to take on the challenge. I was really excited in Japan, it got off to a good start when I did a PB in the 200m backstroke – which is something I probably didn’t quite expect.”

However, Woodward’s whirlwind tour also provided some noteworthy challenges outside of the pool.

“The tough [test] was I had the 50m heats and final in Queensland and then had to wake up at 3am the next morning to catch a 5am flight out of there,” he said.

“I did the race at 10 or 11 o’clock [that day] in the morning heats – and that was a rough old heat. However, I actually came back at night and did a PB in the 50m, so I was pretty excited about that. Although, I will admit by the time the 200m [backstroke] came around in Sydney it wasn’t probably my best race.

“But I think it was just a good component of being able to be tired and race because at the end of the day in those big meets . . . those eight day meets like the World Champs . . . it helps you know that you can do it.”

Woodward, who has won a total of three Commonwealth Games silver medals and a bronze, as well as a World Aquatic Championships silver and bronze for relay events, said ‘mental toughness’ was a crucial weapon in any swimmer’s arsenal during big meets.

“Being mentally tough is a big component for those meets, because as much as you’re tapered and you think you’re going to be fresh, when you’re at day six, day seven, you certainly aren’t,” he said.

“You need to be able to wake up and go: ‘okay, I just have to do it . . . I can’t dwell on being tired.’ And I think that big race schedule [pre-Christmas] certainly helped with that.”

Adam Kable, who is NSWIS’s widely respected Head Swimming coach, said there were many reasons that underpinned Woodward’s 18 race schedule in just 16-days.

“We made a conscious decision not to go to the World Cups or tours of Europe,” said Kable. “We stayed at home and trained, and partly that was because I wanted to freshen Brad up mentally.

“I wanted to do a big training block from September, November/December, and we were also conscious Brad also had university exams [for physiotherapy].

“As a result, I wanted to increase his racing exposure and fitness through racing, meaning he actually gets fit in the process of racing.  

“It’s actually allowed for him to get on a roll and build on the next performance, and the next performance after that. It’s all leading towards the [Olympic] trials, and Doha is another important part of that puzzle.”

Kable added that Woodward’s effort in Tokyo, Brisbane and Sydney also summed up his swimmer’s character and wholehearted approach to the sport.

“Brad has a relentless . . . you could even call it ‘dogged’  . . . pursuit of performance,” said Kable. “He is your athlete who’ll leave a stone unturned, and you never have to motivate him. You never have to push him towards action. If anything, I’m pushing him back in intensity.”   

Woodward credited Kable for playing a major part in his career.

“Adam’s been absolutely amazing,” he said. “I made the move to [join] him late 2016, and it’s pretty much the best thing I’ve ever done. We gel really well, he’s a physio [by profession], I’m a physio student, and we have similar mindsets.

“I think that relationship just kind of blossomed over the last few years. It’s one of these relationships of he’s a very good coach, but he’s also quite a good mate.”

Daniel Lane, NSWIS

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