Broadcasting from Fukuoka, Brisbane’s Nova 106.9 are preparing to take to the pool at the World Aquatics Masters Championships in Japan. Leading the charge is Susie O’Neill, who will be competing in the relay alongside her co-hosts and a listener, as well as the individual 50m butterfly race – a result of her participating in the Masters’ time trials in May and breaking the world record.
The race was her first competition since the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Mediaweek caught up with O’Neill ahead of the team’s flight to Japan, to chat about what it’s been like returning to the pool alongside her radio colleagues.
How did this whole event come about?
“I was on the radio one morning and Ash and Luttsy said that they had a great idea for my 50th birthday. I must admit, I thought they were going to say a party or something, not involving swimming. Then they said that they realised that the Masters Games were on in Japan around the same time as my birthday, so why don’t we go over as a relay team and get a listener to be a fourth member? That’s how they sold it to me.
“In the process of that happening, we had to do an individual race to qualify – so you qualify for an individual event, and then you can send a relay at Masters. When we had that, that’s when I broke that world record in my age group of 50 to 54. So now I’m doing the individual as well, and we’re all doing the relay.”
Joining the team for the 50m mixed medley relay is Nova listener and school teacher Kylie Fletcher. What made her the right choice?
“Kylie is a good choice, A: because she’s 52, so she bumped us up to the older age group, which is good, and B: she’s just a regular woman around town. She’s a teacher at a school in Brisbane, and she was a swimmer when she was back at school.
“I did happen to know her! I wasn’t part of the selection process, but my daughter went to the same school that she teaches at, and because swimming is quite incestuous, she’s also dating a guy who was my training partner leading into the Sydney Olympics. It’s very Brisbane.”
What has the reaction been like since you announced you’d be heading to Japan?
“It’s been amazing, actually, I’ve been really, really shocked to be perfectly honest. Everyone was getting on board with the relay and everything, but since I broke the record it’s actually been really humbling.
“I’m not really recognisable when I walk around, I haven’t been for years and years and years. But after I broke the world record, it was crazy. It was the State of Origin the weekend after and I went to the game, and the number of people that said ‘I can’t wait to watch the swim’ and told me what a great idea that was – I was shocked. It’s been really humbling.”
What are your hopes for your time in Fukuoka?
“It’s just about having a bit of fun, and we’ve been having fun on the radio with the relay team. We’ve picked a theme song – Little River Band’s Playing to Win – we’ve picked a mascot – a dugong, and Buzz our panel op is going to be wearing the dugong costume over there – and we’ve been kitted out in formal wear. I know that when it’s time for the race I will get nervous, because I just do when there’s a big event. But hopefully, it’ll still be good fun.
“On the first day Kylie and I are both in the 50m fly, then the second day the boys have the 50m free. On the third day, we will do the relay together. So on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, we’ll do the show in the morning then do our swimming races, and we’ll have Thursday and Friday to explore Fukuoka.”
So you’ll be on air in the mornings before heading to the pool?
“Yes! We’ll either do it from the hotel or the pool. It’s only an hour time difference, so we’ll go five to eight instead of six to nine.
“I’m looking forward to getting away with the team, we get on really well. So it’ll be the four of us who are on air, and then four other people around the show. It’ll be a good group.”
Top Image: Ash, Luttsy, and Susie O’Neill