Interview with a Paralympian | Q&A with Para-Swimmer and QSMC client, Brenden Hall
Brenden Hall is set, and ready to go for his fourth Paralympic campaign. Before he jetted off to Tokyo, we caught up with Brenden in the clinic to ask him about his lead up to the games. He’ll be representing Australia in the Butterfly, Backstroke and defending his two consecutive gold medals in the 400m Freestyle.
When did you first get involved in swimming?
Probably from the age of 3. It was whenever Mum and Dad decided to throw me in the water. From what I can remember I liked it from the start, but I didn’t think much of it. And then I lost my leg when I was 6 years old. That was when the Olympic Games in Sydney were on, so 2000. I remember watching those Olympics games and thinking that maybe there is something out there for me.
When did you realise you wanted to take up swimming professionally?
From about the age of 12. That was when I realised I might actually be able to have a shot at representing Australia.
How would your teammates describe you?
Uhh, I would say tall, deaf and probably humble.
How old were you when you started swimming regularly in squads?
Quite early, probably around that 7 or 8 mark; and that’s when competitions start. So around 6 that’s when you go to mini swimming meets. So I did about a year of those, and that’s when I lost my leg. I was starting to really enjoy the fun part of the racing.
Would you say you’re quite competitive?
Oo I don’t think I seem competitive. But when the time comes and when it counts I can become very competitive yeah.
How many events are you qualified for in the Tokyo Paralympics?
3 this year. They are the 100m Butterfly, 100m Backstroke and 400m Freestyle. Freestyle would be my favourite.
How many Paralympics have you attended and how many medals have you won?
I’ve got 6 medals so far. 3 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze. This year will be my fourth games.
Out of the previous 3 you’ve been too, which was your favourite?
It’s hard to say, overall London would probably have to be my favourite. Just the whole experience, being able to take it all in. It was great what they put on for us. For the first time it felt we were on an even playing field compared to the Olympics. Driving around London they had these massive posters of Paralympians on the buildings. Obviously I was still relatively new to Paralympics at that time; I was 15 when I went to my first games in Beijing and 19 in London.
How did you find Beijing, being so young at the time?
When I go back over all my interviews from Beijing I used one word to describe everything… and it was ‘awesome’. That’s as far as my vocabulary extended at that age hahaha. At that age I thought nothing was ever going to beat this. I loved it. I think I was at the top of the rollercoaster for about 2 weeks and I never came off.
How important is looking after your body to your overall performance?
Very important. Obviously going up in age now, limb difference and walking in my prosthetic in day to day life I have to make sure I don’t throw my back out or throw my hips out too much that it will affect me in the pool. Relatively trying to make sure that I maintain a healthy body even post-career.
You’re currently studying, what made you decide to go into Physiotherapy?
Oh gosh, how long have I been coming to QSMC? Since 2012 or maybe 2011. At that time I was doing Sports and Exercise Science. I didn’t really have much insight into Physio. But chatting with you guys back in the day, seeing everyone in the clinic and what they do and how it works, really interested me. I started to develop more of an interest in anatomy and how the body works. I’ve been studying at ACU, and am about 2.5 years through now.
Does studying Physiotherapy make you a better athlete?
Oh yeah, 100%. Just understanding how the body works, what causes injuries. You sit there in lecture theaters learning all this stuff and then realise you’ve been slouching the whole time. And as an athlete I’m thinking well this slouching won’t help me in my session this afternoon. So then your analytical brain kicks in and you sit up straight, shoulder back, all that type of stuff. As I’m getting older, the recovery component is also huge.
As a young athlete, did anyone inspire you?
As a kid it was always Ian Thorpe. Always looked up to Thorpey in the pool. Michael Phelps as well. Once I got into Paralympic Sport, it was Matt Cowdrey. We’re good team mates and good mates now.
Is there any advice you would give to your younger self?
I think when I was younger I was always so focused on the next goal or what’s going to happen next and how to do it. I wasn’t enjoying the present and enjoying the moment that was in front of me. So I think advice I would have given myself would have been to take a break and enjoy the moment you’re currently in.
How did you stay motivated to train during Covid?
Well, l won silver at the World Championships in 2019, and that’s the first time I’ve lost in 10 or 11 years for my main event. So I wanted to make sure when the opportunity did come around that I would have that shot at winning again. I was going to do everything possible to get to that wall.
Are you feeling confident going into this year’s Paralympics?
Yeah! I’m feeling confident and feeling good. I think now it’s just a matter of making sure that I believe in myself that I’ve done the work to win it again. I am going in defending my gold medals in the 400m Freestyle. One in London, and one in Rio. So I am aiming to defend my title.
What are you looking forward to the most at this year’s Games?
Just being able to race again and represent Australia. To spend every year doing it, and then having a year off, it’s like ‘what happened that year?!’ So I’m super grateful to have the opportunity to get up and swim for Australia again.
Have you got another Paralympic Games in you after this one?
That’s the plan. It just all really depends on how the body goes holding on together. But hopefully I can qualify for the Commonwealth Games next year and we will see what happens after that. Paris is definitely a dream and I think 5 is a good number to finish on. But I also don’t want to go there and come away with nothing.
If you could play any other sport, what would it be?
Oh, there really are so many. I would love to be able to surf. You know I love the ocean and I love body surfing. If I could surf I would be happy as Larry.