Weizhen has Cole Classic medal in sight to thank donor after transplant

Growing up in landlocked Beijing, I never learnt how to swim until my mid-20s when I met my husband in Australia.

After learning the basics, there was a long period of time where I didn’t seem to make any progress with my swimming skills.

You see, I had a genetic condition called Polycystic Liver Disease, which swelled my liver to 4-5 times the size of a normal liver, think of a pregnant lady with triplets, that was me!

I couldn’t eat, my muscles were wasting away. I was put on the transplant waiting list.
On August 15, 2016, I received the gift of life.

The surgery was tough, but I was determined to get my life back after all those years of limited mobility.

While I was sick, I came across some ocean swimming videos from the Cole Classic. The freedom of ocean swims immediately captivated my imagination.

I remember daydreaming that one day I would be able to swim in the Cole Classic when I was better.

I also secretly wanted one of the pretty race medals as a gift for the staff at my transplant clinic (thank goodness I don’t have to come first to get one). There’s no better way to say thank you to the doctors, nurses and the donor family than taking great care of the body they fixed for me.
Once the goal was set, getting on to achieve it was just a matter of following a process.
Step one: Build endurance and do not drown instantly!

I went back to the pool eight weeks post operation. The first 25m hurt like hell!

A big shout out to Claire Owen from SwimLab, who helped to correct my self-taught freestyle stroke, developed from watching YouTube videos.

I also had the ‘pleasure’ of experiencing Cryptosporidiosis due to my weakened immune system. That was another four days in hospital and two months off swimming.

But I kept going, the Cole Classic and the pretty medal always in the back of my mind.

Step two: Conquer the fear for waves and deep water.

As soon as I was able to clock up 1km in the pool, I signed up for OceanFit’s Learn to ocean swim clinic. Our instructor, Lia, described that morning’s surf as a “dog’s breakfast”. I went in anyway!

I made two PB’s on that day. One, the most excessively large amount of sea water I have ever drunk in one day; and two, the furthest I ever swam off the beach!

Despite all the anxiety and panic, I learnt so much, felt alive and loved every bit of the clinic. So much so, I came back for the MOCEAN 8-week block of morning ocean fitness classes that was starting up the week after my clinic.

These lessons helped me to practice what I had learnt in the clinic, and get out in the ocean in all sorts of conditions, from roaring seas to beautiful clam sunrise swims.

When I was out in the ocean, my health challenges, and other efforts, such as having to get up at 4:00am and drive 50 kilometres to the beach, became instantly insignificant.

Getting up for the end of block Christmas sunrise swim.
The beach is empty when I get there…
That’s me in the front in this group Christmas swim group photo when all the small groups joined together.

OceanFit created a safe and professional environment that made me feel comfortable and allowed me to push myself out of my comfort zone. Juliann was super supportive and encouraging in the morning classes, allowing me to learn with absolutely zero experience.

From having never gone past waist deep water, to swimming out through the rip, and beyond the surf zone, in all my wild fantasies I would never have imagined I would be doing this. They would have remained just that, fantasies, without the patience and support of OceanFit.

Thank you so much OceanFit, we’ll see you at the Cole Classic!

Weizhen’s training with OceanFit

Learn to ocean swim clinic
3-hours, $195 (incl. complimentary goggles $29.95)
This introductory-level, 3-hour Learn to ocean swim clinic will familiarise you with the basics of this increasingly popular summer activity with an abundance of ocean swimming tips & techniques to start you on your ocean swimming journey.

45min, $35/class (block of 6-8 classes)
MOCEAN ocean fitness sessions are all about the motion in the ocean! They’re for ocean swimmers who want to enjoy a nice relaxing ocean swim.

Cole Classic ocean swim


This post was written by Andre Slade

Andre is the owner of OceanFit with over 20 years in the swimming education, lifeguarding and coastal safety industry.

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