She was in dominating form at last week’s Swimming World Cup, but those close to Kiwi Lauren Boyle aren’t surprised by her recent success.
With multiple gold medals, as well as a few silver and bronze from the Asian leg of the event, Lauren (25) has cemented her place as New Zealand’s top swimmer – but it’s been a long and hard road.
At just six, she was earmarked for Olympic glory. Her mother, Linda Norman, had taken Lauren to swimming class – and was watching her splash around, when an instructor pulled her aside.
“He said, ‘If Lauren wants to go the Olympics one day, she will be able to,’” Linda recalls.
Since then, Lauren has represented New Zealand at two Commonwealth Games, the 2012 London Olympics, and claimed three bronze medals at the recent 2013 World Championships in Barcelona, becoming the second New Zealander to reach that number (after Danyon Loader in 1994).
“I always loved swimming, but I loved horses too,” Lauren says. “However, at around 15, I knew that swimming was the thing I was best at, and started doing it with all my might.”
But Lauren knows she owes a lot of her success to her chief cheerleader, taxi driver and shoulder to cry on – Mum.
“It must have been boring, going to swim meets, but she never complained, she was just there,” Lauren says.
“We’ve developed a pretty close relationship because of swimming, I think, and as I’ve got older, it’s turned into more of a friendship, which is nice.”
Parenting a headstrong Lauren didn’t come without its challenges, Linda admits. While maintaining perfect grades, as well as getting up at 4.30 every morning for training, Lauren developed astonishing focus that demanded an almost impossible level of perfection.
“She’s made me so proud, but she’s quite a fusspot really,” says Linda. “It’s in a good way, though. Sometimes I have to pinch myself and ask, ‘Is this really my daughter?’ It’s incredible to think that she’s made it to this level, but I’m not surprised. She’s so focused. She’s never given up.
Even after the Olympics last year (Lauren finished an agonising fourth in the 800m final), she says to me, ‘I could have swum faster.’ She just won’t stop.”
And Lauren is so determined, she simply refuses to call anything a sacrifice – even the social life she has never had.
“Look, everything is a choice,” she says, almost stubbornly. “I do what I do because I love it – and if that means I can’t go for a drink on Thursday or out on Saturday night, fine. Not that it wouldn’t be nice,” she adds, “But it’s okay. I feel really good about what I’m doing.”
Although she does place a great deal of pressure on herself, it’s this dedication and desire for perfection that’s enabled Lauren –- who also has a business degree from the University of California, Berkeley – to become a world champion.
When training, her days are much the same – wake in the wee hours, train, eat, rest, train, eat, rest, bed. It may sound like a nightmare for some, but Lauren is in perpetual competition with herself.
So, when she received so much support and recognition in September after winning medals at the World Champs and during this month’s Asian leg of the Word Cup, Lauren says she was surprised, deeply humbled and appreciative.
Speaking to The Weekly at her parents’ home in North Auckland, just before she departs for Singapore, Lauren admits that even she sometimes needs a break.
“It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the bubble,” she says. “I spend a lot of time on the road, living out of a suitcase, so it’s been nice to be home for a while. We really do live in the best country in the world. Just being here, gardening, walking on the beach, catching up with mates – it’s great.”
And Linda has been a big influence on Lauren’s green fingers. “Mum’s taught me heaps. She’s an amazing gardener and has always been a really healthy eater. When you’re an athlete looking to make the tiniest improvement, eating food fresh out of the garden is wonderful.”
Although, proving she is human, Lauren will confess to one weakness – coffee.
“I love it. We’re not supposed to drink too much, but I have to have it. I even took a barista course, so I know all about the perfect pour!”
Now in full training mode as she builds up to next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Lauren says she’s counting on both her own competitiveness and family support to get her through.
“I’ve decided I want to swim for the next two years, so I’m not going to do it half-arsed,” she says. “I’ll put everything I’ve got into it.”
Photos: Caren Davis • Styling: Emma Aubin • hair & make up: kate smith • p22. lauren wears trenery. Linda wears diane von furstenberbg from muse. p23 lauren wears jacqui e. linda wears witchery