AUT Millennium is a facility bustling with world-class sporting talent.
It’s not uncommon to stand behind an Olympian at the Little French Café in the facility’s main concourse, or walk past a world champion on your way up the stairs to the gym.
While the sporting champions are undoubtedly an inspiring part of the facility, it is the mixture of athletes and ‘everyday champions’ which gives AUT Millennium its character and brings the facility to life.
Penny Slack is one of AUT Millennium’s everyday champions.
Before moving to Masterton in 2015, the 81 year old visited the facility three mornings a week to swim laps in the 50 metre Olympic-sized pool. With her smooth, relaxed stroke and vibrant energy, anyone could mistake Penny for a former swimming champion.
Penny has an inspiring swimming story, so much so that Jan Cameron, the former head coach of Swimming New Zealand, used her as an example to motivate the national high performance swimming squad.
Believe it or not, Penny Slack had her first ever swimming lesson in 2006, when she was 72 years old.
Learning to swim, or picking up any new and technical skill, at that stage of life is an incredible accomplishment.
If you were to ask any swim teacher, they will attest to the fact that learning to swim can often be a very challenging experience for adults.
There are a number of factors which impact adult beginners: mental blocks about it being too late to learn, a fear of submerging for the first time, kicking without ‘bendy legs’.
Not only did Penny have to learn right from the beginning, but at 72 her strength and flexibility was likely to be limited.
That did not stop Penny. Her energy and discipline for mastering the skill of swimming showcased an incredible perseverance.
Despite having had only a couple of lessons, Penny was determined to master the life-skill of swimming.
She turned to books for help, which explained the key to swimming was repetition, or time spent in the water. With a positive attitude and tenacious desire Penny persisted with her swimming alone.
That’s when she truly caught the eye of Cameron and the High Performance Swim Squad.
After watching Penny for a few months, the squad decided to recognise her remarkable improvements. They presented her with a swimming cap, signed with the names of every member of the elite squad.
Cameron had used Penny as an example to the squad, that regardless of age or stage, everyone is capable of learning and improving.
Penny Slack exemplifies exactly what it means to be a champion.