Swimmer back after knee injury
Tearing a muscle in his knee last year has been the best thing that could have happened to him, says swimmer Johnson Bishop.
Johnson, 18, a Year 13 student at Taupo¯-nui-a-Tia College, has just brought home a gold medal, two silvers and a bronze from the recent New Zealand Short Course Championships.
Not bad for a young man who earlier this year was still recovering from an injury that stopped him from competing in his best event, the breaststroke.
But with careful rehabilitation and support and the right training, Johnson has come back stronger and faster than ever and now says he’s grateful for the injury.
“It allowed me to have a big break from all the training. It had got to the point where I was so gutted and down about it that I was contemplating giving up but having that break made me realise that it [swimming] is what I wanted to do, and I just love it so much.”
Johnson says he usually tries to peak twice a year for big events and the NZ Short Course Champs is definitely one of those. The other is the New Zealand Age Group Champs which was held in April, where Johnson’s best result was a fourth placing and he set new personal best times.
“That was my first race back from injury. It was a hugely motivating meet because even before my injury I was racing at fourth or fifth. I came back supermotivated and went to my first meet of the short course about three weeks after and did some big personal bests and knew it was going to be a good season from there.”
Johnson has been improving on his personal bests all season and credits the success to the training programme he’s been following.
“I can race on the weekend, have a good week of training and then go to the next weekend and drop a few seconds off my times.”
At the NZ Short Course Champs Johnson is justifiably proud of his all his medals but he’s especially pleased with the 200m breaststroke bronze, which he won in the Open category, against swimmers older than him. The winner was a 21-year-old and the silver medallist 20. Johnson was 17.
Johnson took up competitive swimming at intermediate age and started to seriously specialise in breaststroke and medley when he was at college, winning his first national title when he was 13. He says he likes that there’s always something to work towards, competitions throughout the year and little goals to achieve every time you get in the water.
He’s out of bed at 5.30 most mornings to get to the pool to train for around 90 minutes and follows that up in the afternoon with a gym session or Pilates or another session in the pool. In all, he trains 20 to 25 hours per week.
Johnson has been coached ever since his Taupo¯ Swimming Club squad days by Peter McCallum.
“He’s got a great eye for talent and he specialises in technique so he’s really good at teaching people the right way to swim and how to make their technique better. One thing he does well is he works really well and closely with his swimmers. He’s not set on the traditional method and he has a really open mind.”
Johnson’s especially grateful for his close relationship with Peter after his injury last year. He came off the starting block on a funny angle in a race, felt his knee “kind of cave in” and then as he began his breaststroke kick, it popped, causing excruciating pain.
“I tore my meniscus in my left knee and being a breaststroker that hits you pretty hard.”
The rehabilitation took up as much time as Johnson’s training had but it also gave him the opportunity to work more closely with Peter on a new training programme.
“We had to be really smart about my recovery and once I came back into fulltime training we designed a programme together. Having that much input into my training was hugely motivating and you wouldn’t find that between most coaches and swimmers.”
Johnson says during his recovery he was grateful for all the support he got, including from Team Taupo¯, which kept him on the scholarship programme even though he lost a whole season due to injury.
Next year Johnson is off to Auckland to do a year of prescience study with a view to studying as a chiropractor and says he hopes to find a coach in Auckland to carry on the programme he and Peter have developed.
Over summer he will be training for the Queensland State Championships which will be held in Brisbane in mid-December.
“It will be a really good test for me because Australia’s one of the best swimming nations in the world so it’ll be good to go over there and see how I race against the Australians.”
Johnson’s younger brother Thomas also recorded personal bests in four events at the NZ Short Course Champs and Johnson says he is a really good training buddy. “Obviously you can’t get through those hard sessions alone . . . it’s just great to have people to push me every day.”
■ Johnson is supported by a Team Taupo¯ scholarship.
Johnson spends 20 to 25 hours per week training.
Swimmer Johnson Bishop, 18.