Sydney Olympic Swim Club’s Will Yang, – a New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) scholarship athlete – has returned to racing with a newfound love of the sport after coming back from two major setbacks that may well have stopped other swimmers in their tracks.
But not ‘our Will’, who notched a confidence boosting win over Olympic and world champion Kyle Chalmers (Marion, SA) in the 100m freestyle final at the 2024 NSW State Championships at SOPAC to keep his Paris Olympic dream alive.
He sizzled on a night that saw Australia’s backstroking queen Kaylee McKeown (Griffith University, QLD) clock the ninth fastest time in history with her 2:04.21 to win the 200m backstroke and her fellow 2023 world champion Mollie O’Callaghan (St Peters Western, QLD) win the 100m freestyle in an impressive 52.82.

For the Adam Kable coached Commonwealth Games relay gold medallist, Yang it was a satisfying return – especially in his home pool, after admitting he struggled to walk last year, clocking 48.48 to add the NSW title to his Victorian State Championship from last month. 
The 25-year-old had a benign tumour removed from his spine and then suffered a STRAP Tear in his shoulder after returning to training and has only been back in the pool seriously since January.
Chalmers (Marion, SA), who was out quickest in 23.48 to Yang’s 23.52, finished second in 48.53, with his German training partner Josha Salchow third in 48.79.
“I haven’t been racing for about a year and only recently got back into training,” said Yang. “I had back surgery and then tore my shoulder and only started training in January.
“I had a tumour on my spinal canal, and it was on the nerve, and it got that bad that I couldn’t really walk so I had to get the surgery done and I was so glad I did.
“I got lucky too with less than 10 days between the diagnosis and the surgery because it was an urgent case, and everything was going really well with the recovery. 
“But with four to five months without exercise and getting back into my routine my shoulder couldn’t take the load and then I suffered a SLAP Tear (Separation of the cartilage from the bone inside the shoulder) in November. 
“But once again I was lucky it healed itself.”
Yang admits he has a long way to go before he can consider himself a chance of going to Paris.
“From my perspective things have changed a lot after what I went through last year and at the moment, I’m just happy to be healthy and enjoying the sport,” said Yang. “With my fitness I’m pretty much back to where I was and (regarding the Olympic Trials in June) I have some time, but there’s a long way to go.
“I am proud that I would not have let the surgery or any setbacks to frame who I am or my career, I think I’m tougher mentally than that.”

Story courtesy of Ian Hanson OAM, for Swimming NSW

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