Le­gend sta­tus af­ter four-sport ca­reer


Ann Fowler is fi­nally be­ing recog­nised for her unique sport­ing record that saw her rep­re­sent New Zealand in four codes.

She is about to be in­ducted as a Hutt Val­ley Sports Awards le­gend, join­ing the likes of Andy Leslie, Jill Westenra, Mark Soren­son and Naomi Shaw.

At Up­per Hutt Col­lege, Ann Jack­son, as she was known then, was se­lected to rep­re­sent New Zealand at water­polo. Within five years she was the na­tional cap­tain.

She also rep­re­sented New Zealand in marathon swim­ming (win­ning the Aus­tralian long dis­tance ti­tle) and surf life sav­ing. De­spite a busy sched­ule she won nu­mer­ous na­tional life sav­ing ti­tles.

Af­ter hav­ing a fam­ily, which in­cludes pro­fes­sional foot­baller Dan Keat, she took up triathlons and came 13th at the 1994 World Cham­pi­onship.

At the same world champs she won a sil­ver medal in the team’s event. In 19th place was an­other lo­cal great, Jill Westenra.

Triathlon was just emerg­ing as a pro­fes­sional sport and at the world champs, she earned her first cheque, $1300.

Re­mark­ably, Fowler’s main sport at col­lege was com­pet­i­tive swim­ming, which she com­peted in with suc­cess at a na­tional level.

Up­per Hutt did not have a pool and she had to go to Tawa, where she met mem­bers of the Paeka¯ka¯riki Life­sav­ing Surf Club.

Be­ing highly com­pet­i­tive she was drawn to life­sav­ing and soon found it was a sport she re­ally en­joyed.

At school, she did well at water­polo but was forced to make a hard choice.

‘‘I left school so that I could go to the World Water­polo Cham­pi­onship. In those days you had to pay to com­pete for New Zealand.’’

Her marathon swim­ming ca­reer co­in­cided with the pe­riod Phil Rush was hugely suc­cess­ful. His suc­cess gen­er­ated a num­ber of events, in­clud­ing the Cook Strait Re­lay, which had a high pro­file. Ann com­peted in that as well as a race across Welling­ton Har­bour.

It is not only as a par­tic­i­pant that Fowler made her mark. She spent more than 20 years as the sports co-or­di­na­tor at Chilton St James Col­lege in Lower Hutt.

Help­ing de­velop tal­ent gave her a lot of plea­sure and some of the girls she worked with went on to big things, par­tic­u­larly New Zealand hockey player Honor Dil­lon.

Other no­ta­bles Me­lanie Clel­land in­cluded (run­ning), Laura Robert­son (ori­en­teer­ing), Emily McGill (swim­ming), Re­becca Keat (triathlons), Lucy Garner (ath­let­ics, vol­ley­ball) and Briar Palmer (foot­ball).

At 55, Fowler still en­joys run­ning and play­ing so­cial vol­ley­ball, and re­cently took up golf.

‘‘It is the most frus­trat­ing game in the whole wide world, but is fun.’’

She is not the only lo­cal woman to have rep­re­sented New Zealand in four sports. Tr­ish Hina played soft­ball, rugby, rugby league and touch in­ter­na­tion­ally and is also a Hutt Val­ley Le­gend.

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