Top 8 Reasons You Need to Know Who AMANZI Girl Hannah Russell Is

AMANZI Girl Hannah Russell

  1. Hannah is the World Champion in the S12 50m Freestyle. Hannah was crowned World Champion after winning Gold at the 2015 International Paralympic World Championships in Glasgow. She also finished with two silver medals in the 100m Freestyle and 100m Backstroke.
  2. Hannah was born visually impaired with a genetic condition that continues to deteriorate her eyesight. Because of this Hannah got involved with swimming, a safe and contact-free sport, and almost instantly fell in love.
  3. Hannah was scouted at age 13 for the Playground to Podium program which aims to identify and support talent potential in young disabled athletes.
  4. Three years later, at only 16 years old, Hannah won three medals at the London 2012 Paralympics, including one silver and two bronze medals.
  5. Hannah is now gearing up for her second Paralympic Games in Rio later this year.
  6. Hannah trains alongside fellow AMANZI Girls Jessica Fullalove and Jessica Lloyd at the Manchester training center.AMANZI Trifecta Jess, Hannah and Jess
  7. Hannah is a great role model for all disabled athletes and swimmers alike.
  8. Hannah has achieved all these things at only 19 years of age, so we’re excited for even more to come and can’t wait to see what is to come at this year’s Paralympics!

Ironman Cairns Race Report

Ironman Cairns, set in tropical Far North Queensland (which happens to be my birthplace) always promises to be a spectacular race. Swim 3.8km in the stunning beaches of Palm Cove, ride 180km along the Captain Cook Highway up to Port Douglas, taking in breathtaking views of the ocean and rainforest then run 42.2km along the Cairns Esplanade with unparalleled atmosphere and crowd support.

When I arrived at Palm Cove (the swim start) on race morning it was still dark and had been sprinkling/drizzling rain. Looking at the ocean it didn’t look appealing at all, the water was brown and choppy, the 70.3 athletes had already started and I was meant to do a warmup swim but was reconsidering.

AMANZI Girl Chloe Kay

The swim was somewhat uneventful for me, I know it was rough and a lot of people were thrown around out there, quite a few were pulled out by rescue boats so I guess I was kind of lucky. But I was relieved to feel the sand under my feet and hear my Mum on the beach cheering.

The ride began pretty nicely, despite having rained whilst we were swimming it was clear to begin with… For about 7 minutes. Just as I got around the first little corner and was heading on the Captain Cook Highway it started to rain, then pour. My nutrition plan was to get some Infinit in and a Cliff Bar eaten nice and early to replace what energy I had used during the swim and set me up for a good day. The rain meant I needed both hands on the bars and my full attention on the road, not unwrapping a bar.

The ride course is definitely interesting and variable, no one can argue with that. The hills are rolling, you pass through parts where the rainforest meets the sea, acres of cane fields, townships with people braving the elements to cheer and of course the famous Rex’s lookout. Riding towards Port Douglas there is a longer gradual climb to the lookout, and returning it’s a shorter steeper hill. First time round it wasn’t so bad and you wonder what all the fuss is about. Second time when there’s strong headwinds, horizontal rain and my legs were cramping I wasn’t loving it.

I absolutely loved the first part of the run, the crowd support was phenomenal. I had spotted Sue my training budding, Hannah and a few people more people I knew and tried to get into some sort of rhythm. I regularly run off the bike so know it usually takes me about 2-3km to shake out the bike legs and feel alright. After about 5km I was struggling, my coach Scotty had written in my race plan ‘You’re never going to feel as good as you do in the first 10km’ which had me worried… You mean to say it’s only going to get worse than this?

I know I have done a couple of Ironman races already, so technically I should know what to expect. Maybe the memories of the other races have faded with the pain. But it felt like I was hurting more than I had ever hurt before. I was struggling and not in a good place mentally or physically.

But just as I was writing the day off as a bad one, admitting defeat that I didn’t achieve any of the goals I had set out to do my coach appeared. I had passed Scotty a few times, the first time I told him I was dying and he answered with ‘Well this is an Ironman.’ Tough coach, thanks for keeping it real… But this time he ran up alongside me and said if I maintained my pace I could make it under 12 hours.

I thought that was already out of the picture, I asked him what pace I needed to run and he said 6min/km. I looked down at my Garmin and was doing 7:10min/km. Suddenly with a burst of motivation and light at the end of a long dark tunnel I picked up the pace and ran it home. I think Scotty was running to make it to the finish line in time to see me to finish so I tried to keep up with him (pretty much impossible). I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face and got so many compliments and cheers on that last kilometre that I looked strong it actually made me feel a bit embarrassed (they hadn’t seen me walking and in despair not so long ago). But I soaked up the atmosphere and loved every minute of running down that finishers chute.

I made it over the line in 11:59:35 and my day from hell was suddenly all worth it, I had finally broken the 12 hour mark.

Until the next one, Chloe.

Read Chloe’s full race report here.

Introducing the New Backstroke Wedge

Wondering about the introduction of backstroke wedges for backstroke starts? You’re not alone! Here’s everything you need to know about the change.

AMANZI Girl Penny Hayes backstroke start

The new backstroke wedges will add that extra oooomph to your start. Photo credit: @pennyhayesnz

These wedges were approved by FINA during a meeting at last year’s new rules committee gathering during the July sessions in Barcelona. The backstroke wedges first hit the scene at the grand prix circuit last summer and are now starting to be used more regularly.

The purpose of the new wedges is to create a standardisation of the starting foot placement for backstroke swimmers. With all of the different types of pools and touch pads out there, there is a lot of inconsistency for backstroke swimmers and this is an attempt to fix it as well as to reduce the number of slips during backstroke starts.

One of the best things about the backstroke wedge is that it’ll give you a grip that has been unheard of in the swimming world until now. As swimmers, we naturally pull up to the balls of our feet then rest most of our weight there during backstroke starts. The backstroke wedge allows you to put your weight onto an angled piece of material to push off, rather than trying to grip your feet onto a flat wall.

We’ve all seen swimmers who get disqualified at the very start of a backstroke event. They pull their bodies up in preparation for the start but then drop down a bit too far before they take off. It can happen to the best of us! In fact, these unfortunate slips have happened even at the highest levels. One of the fastest backstroker swimmers on the planet, Elizabeth Beisel, qualified for the 2014 US National Championships then was immediately taken out of the race when she slipped off the wall. It’s so unfortunate but so common! It has happened to top swimmers around the world at events like the World Championships and even the Olympics. If it can happen to an Olympics swimmer, it can happen to any of us.

The goal of the backstroke wedge is to act like a high heel shoe and force your feet to stay in place so you never have to worry about slipping and being tossed out of the competition. On top of that, the backstroke wedge also creates a more even weight distribution so you aren’t killing your arms if you pull yourself high out of the water.

On top of creating stability, the backstroke wedge will also give a push factor. When you stabilise your body, you are in much greater control. Since you are completely still on a backstroke wedge, you can push off with greater force at the start of a race. With your body exactly where you want it to be, you will always start every swim meet at your best.

This new change is definitely something that we are excited about. Hopefully we will be seeing more backstroke wedges rolled out quickly at pools across the globe!

Why we love the Olympics

Is there anything better than the Olympics? You can just feel the hope and energy floating through the air as people pour their hearts and souls into capturing their dreams. While we would all love to make it into the games ourselves, watching it from at home can be a pretty amazing time too!

Can you believe it is already time for the Olympics again? While it seems like we were just celebrating the last summer Olympics in London, we are now ready to direct our attention over to Brazil for the next big event!

In case you missed it, the Rio Olympic Games 2016 begins on Friday, 5 August and ends on Sunday, 21 August. More than 10,500 world class from more than 200 countries will be competing for 306 sets of medals in 28 Olympic sports. This exciting group of competitions will take place in Brazil’s largest city São Paulo, Brazil’s capital Brasília, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and Manaus.

While we are all definitely going to be glued to the TV for the entirety of August, it is the water sports that we’re the most excited about! In the swimming there is going to be a total of 34 swimming events with 17 women’s events and 17 men’s event including two 10-km open-water marathons. In the diving events, we will get to witness some world class acrobatics in the 3m and 10m Platform events, as well as the synchronised diving events.

We also very excited to see the Womens Triathlon Event on Saturday 20th August with three of AMANZI Girls having already qualified.

Even if you can’t watch the entirety of the Olympics, you will most definitely want to mark your calendars for 6 to 13 August to watch 2016’s impressive group of swimmers. We will be watching this year’s big events in the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. For the open-water marathon, block off your schedule for 15 to 16 August to watch the planet’s top swimmers race through Fort Copacabana.

Only 50 days to go!

Welcome Zsofia Kovacs

We are very excited to welcome Hungarian triathlete, Zsofia Kovacs to the AMANZI Girls team as she gets ready to compete at her second Olympics in Rio later this year.

AMANZI Girl Zsofia Kovacs

Zsofia is part of the Wollongong Wizards triathlon group where she trains alongside fellow AMANZI Girls Tamsyn Moana-Veale and Amelie Kretz, as well as world number one, Gwen Jorgensen.

The 2010 Hungarian Cup winner has been racing on the ITU circuit since 2004. Zsofia regularly places in the top 10 for her age group, including placing 4th for two consecutive years at the 2015 Tiszaujvaros ITU Triathlon World Cup. Zsofia finished in the top 25 at the World Triathlon Series race in Leeds over the weekend.

We can’t wait to watch Zsofia race in Rio alongside fellow AMANZI Girls and Olympic Qualifiers Vendula Frintova and Gillian Sanders.

Super Foods

Are you looking to make your diet super? Forget about normal food and hop on the super food bandwagon! Super foods, aka foods that are nutrient dense, can transform your diet. Here are a few of our favourite foods that pack a major punch.

Greek Yogurt

Who doesn’t love Greek yogurt? Thick, creamy and packed with protein and probiotics, this is the perfect breakfast or anytime food. Eat it plain or sweeten it up with fruit for breakfast. Use it in place of sour cream, cream cheese and mayo all day long. The flavour is subtle so it’ll transform quickly with spices.


Ditch the rice and grab some quinoa! This South American superfood is jam packed with all nine amino acids along with a hearty dose of protein. You can use it in any recipe that calls for rice or couscous. It will add bonus nutrients and an amazing taste.


Loaded with fibre, vitamin C and antioxidants, these impressively little fruits deserve a permanent place on your grocery shopping list. According to experts, they might even improve your memory! Sprinkle some over your oatmeal or eat ‘em plain.


Looking to add more antioxidants to your diet? Leaf per leaf, this is the number one source of antioxidants in the garden! It’s also a great source of iron, fibre and calcium.


On top of being the pottery that grows, these amazing little seeds are full of iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.


An oldie but a goodie, this classic breakfast table staple is full of antioxidants and fibre. It’ll keep your digestive system running like a dream while the slow release carbs will keep you feeling full for hours. Did you know it can even lower your cholesterol level?

Chobani Yogurt, Oats and Chia

Three of our favourite superfoods, delicious together! Photo cred: @thebitingtruth

Green Tea

Haven’t started drinking green tea yet? Join us! All of the healthiest people from the last couple of centuries have found antioxidant-rich green tea to be the secret to a long, healthy life.


You may have hated it as a kid but it is time to start loving it! Packed full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and folate, these ugly little green flowers are an essential part of a healthy diet.


Here’s a superfood that’s easy to swallow! These delicious little berries will give your immune system a major boost while proving you with a major dose of vitamin C. Thanks to their natural sweetness, they are a favourite of many dieters. Grab a cup next time you are craving sweets!


Last but certainly not least, salmon is the most powerful food in the non-vegetarian category. Full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is the natural star of any healthy meal. There are a million and one healthy ways to cook it so start experimenting!

A Guide To Training When You Are Sick


AMANZI Girl Charlotte eager to get back in the pool

To train or not to train when you’re feeling sick? Photo credit @chardurand

When you get into the rhythm of a training schedule, a cold or another illness can throw a huge cramp in your style and many athletes are left with the question whether it is a good idea to train or not. Depending on who you ask, exercising when you are sick can either be the worst thing in the world to do for your body or the best. We came to the conclusion it really depends on the illness and the individual. This brief guide will help you decide whether to keep on training or to temporarily throw in the towel.

The Pros and Cons

The arguments for whether to train or not are not all that complicated: exercise can either make you better or worse! So which one is it? The answer is that it really depends on the type of exercise, illness, environmental conditions and the individual.

Exercise is a great way to boost our metabolism and immunity, and this ultimately can mean helping your body get better faster. Essentially there was a little bit of truth to the myth of sweating an illness off. It will also help you make sure your physical progress does not deteriorate as much during the course of the illness.

However, that doesn’t take into account the severity of the illness. If you are running a high fever, raising your core temperature with exercise is a terrible idea that will make you sick. Exercise also can leave you depleted of energy to fight off an illness if you are extremely weak.

Basically, you’ll need to use a little common sense to try to navigate the answer to this question.

To Train, or not to Train?

In this case it is sometimes best to go with how you are exactly feeling to determine whether you should exercise or not. If you don’t feel like you can get out of bed, going on a jog is probably not the best idea. However, if you feel like you have regular energy levels with a just few symptoms then you are probably ready to go.

One rule of thumb that many athletes go by is feeling where the cold is in the body. If your symptoms are the throat and up, then you are probably fine to train. If your symptoms reach down to the chest along with any aches or pains, it is best to sit it out.

One last thing to remember is that you should definitely not start anything new or difficult while you are sick. At most you should just do your standard training distance and time or even go a little less far and hard in order to not overwhelm your body.

Listening To Your Body

Obviously since you are sick, you are not going to be able to push as hard as normal. It is important to have body awareness. If you feel worse for the wear after exercise then you’ve probably pushed too hard, and you should take that as a learning experience. On the other hand, when your body feels a little bit better after exercise that means you’ve done the perfect amount.

Remember don’t feel like you absolutely must train during an illness. Sometimes taking a short break will help refresh your enthusiasm, so when you finally are feeling 100% again, you’ll literally be ready to hit the ground running.

The Truth about Juice Cleanses

Juice cleanses

Photo cred: @recoveryfortiffany

Ready to purify your body of all its nasty, dirty toxins? If you are thinking about doing a juice cleanse, there are a few things that you should know before you grab a kilo of oranges!

First things first, know that your body is fine. You aren’t overloaded with toxins. If you are eating a reasonably healthy diet and getting some exercise, your body is probably in great shape. Secondly, if you are having some issues, talk to a doctor. Whether it is aches and pains, fatigue or something more serious, juice isn’t going to fix it.

The vast majority of doctors are underwhelmed by juice cleanses and advise people to be wary of anything labelled “detox” that promises to purify or cleanse your body in some way. If you have got a liver, kidneys and intestines, you’re good to go. Your body is a powerful, self-cleaning machine!

If you are going to help out your body, do it by eating a balanced diet. While you could do that through juice, it is a whole lot easier to just have normal food. For the best results, skip the juice and eat fruit. Grab some vegetables, dairy and grain to go with it.

Your body simply isn’t meant to sustain itself on just juice. We need variety. While fruit is great, you need it in moderation. Having too much juice means way too much sugar. This will cause your pancreas to overproduce insulin and your blood sugar will be all over the place. Without protein and fibre, your metabolism is going to take a major hit.

At the end of the day, there is just no upside to a juice cleanse. While you might lose some water weight, it has been consistently proven that juice cleanses don’t produce long term results. So, your weight will stay the same and you will deprive yourself of nutrients and vitamins. You will have much more success losing weight and becoming healthier by introducing more fruit into your diet and focusing on making your diet more diverse.

Bottom line: In the short term, juice cleanses aren’t going to hurt otherwise healthy people. Your body can live temporarily without proper nutrition but you definitely aren’t going to gain anything from it. Do yourself a favour and let your body take care of itself! Save all the fruit and make yourself an amazing fruit salad for dessert.

What Swimmers Should Eat Before and After Training

Keep it simple, fellow fishes! There are so many rumours floating around what you should and shouldn’t eat before and after training. It is enough to make your head spin. So much of the advice out there is contradictory or just impossible to follow. Ultimately, when it comes to eating healthy, it is all about common sense and healthy basics.

You don’t need anything fancy before and after your workouts. While nutrition shakes and supplement bars might be great for some people, they are far from necessary. In fact, some of the big name so-called healthy shakes and bars are downright terrible for you. As a general rule, you are much better off to stick to foods with ingredients that you can pronounce and recognise.

When it comes to fueling up before your swim training, your body needs carbs, protein and water. No fancy foods required here! Your muscles depend on carbohydrates for quick energy so fill up on bread, pasta, cereal or rice.

Big bowl of pasta

A big bowl of pasta is the perfect thing to keep you energised at training! Photo cred: @recoveryfortiffany

To facilitate the flow of oxygen to your muscles, your body also needs protein. Chow down on healthy cuts of protein like skinless chicken or turkey. If you are in the mood for red meat, go for a ground beef that is at least 90% lean. For you vegetarians out there, opt for beans and lentils. There is a massive variety of beans and lentils out there so make an effort to experiment as much as you can to keep things interesting.

Of course, the most important thing of all is water! Be sure to drink at least half of a litre of water about two hours before you break a sweat. For a basic workout, water is enough. If you will be working out for more than an hour, a sports drink is good for replenishing your electrolytes.

Whatever foods that you choose to have before your workout, make sure that it is low in fat and fibre. You should also stick with familiar foods that don’t cause indigestion. Loading up on a greasy pizza or chips before your workout is just asking for trouble.

When it comes to refuelling after your workout, you just need a bit of protein. Go for a hard-boiled egg, protein shake or even just a quick chocolate milk. It is important to remember that nearly all of us are already meeting or exceeding our protein needs so don’t go crazy with it. You can definitely have too much of a good thing.

Stay warm after your workout

While swimming outside can be wonderful, it can also freeze you to your core! Even if you are feeling warm in the pool, you might feel pretty differently when you hop out. Thanks to icy cold winters in the Northern Hemisphere and unheated outdoor pools, it can be tricky to keep outdoor swimming in your routine.

On top of being uncomfortable, being too cold can be downright dangerous! You already know about the dangerous of frostbite but did you know that the cold even impacts your muscles and your likelihood of injury?

Fortunately, a little bit goes a long way when it comes to getting your training routine heated up. It is important to have the right gear. If you are planning to swim in cold sea water, get a wetsuit. While sleeveless wetsuits might seem more comfortable, you will lose a lot of heat through your armpits. Opt for a full suit and be sure to keep your head covered with a cap and stick earplugs in to keep your core temperature high.

AMANZI Girl Courtney Home in her wetsuit

AMANZI Girl Courtney doing it right this winter! Photo cred: @corky93

If you can relax in a sauna after a cold swim, this is the perfect way to keep your body heated up. If not, ditch the freezing cold wetsuit when you get out of the water and start layering on warm clothes. Rather than throwing on a thick jacket, layering is great because it allows you to slowly strip down as you start to warm up again.

It’s important to remember that your body is always fighting to stay at a comfortable temperature. When you allow your body to get too cold, you are more susceptible to picking up cold and flu viruses so don’t make your body work harder than it needs to! Regulate your temperature after your workouts when your body is already tired out.

When your muscles become cold too quickly, you increase your risk of injury. A sudden burst of cold affects your blood flow and can affect your body’s recovery rate. This is the reason for cooling down slowly after workouts as well as preventing your body from being hit with a sudden burst of cold after leaving the water.

The best thing that you can do after a cold swim is get out of the water and do some cool down exercises. When you leave the water, dry off, layer up your clothing and take a brisk walk. This will allow your heart rate to drop more gradually while reducing your risk of injury and post-workout pain.

So, outdoor swimmers, there is no reason to let chilly weather push you inside! Come prepared and you can enjoy your swim training almost anytime, anywhere.