Life as a Foundation Club Athlete


AUT Millennium is a training ground for a wide variety of sportspeople, water Polo players, athletics, weightlifters, kayakers, sailors and swimmers. Laura Quilter, a New Zealand swimmer and surf lifesaver, is one of those athletes.

For Laura, AUT Millennium and North Shore Swimming Club have proved to be the difference in helping her realise her sporting ambition and provide a pathway for professional development post-swimming.

Laura made the decision to move to Auckland, from her hometown in Gisborne, to pursue her dream of representing New Zealand on the international stage.

Her journey with AUT Millennium began in late 2010 as part of the national high performance swimming squad.

“I still remember walking in to the facility on my first day and seeing all the sporting decorations, images of athletes and awards cabinets. Before I even got to see the pool I knew I was in a pretty special place,” explains Laura.

The Gisborne-born athlete was awed by both the size and support services available at AUT Millennium.

National Aquatic CentreLaura describes how accessing the diverse range of facilities helped elevate her sporting career.

“Some days I’d go from a two hour swim session to breakfast, down to the gym and then on to physio. There is nowhere else I can think of that would be able to provide both the facilities and services that I needed.”

“The environment in the High Performance Sport New Zealand gym was incredibly motivating. Our squad got to train alongside other athletes and it was really interesting seeing what they did. It was also pretty humbling, watching some of the kayak women do pull ups with 20 or 30 kilos was awesome.”

In 2012, Laura joined one of the facilities foundation clubs, North Shore Swimming.

Established in 1897, North Shore Swimming (NSS) is one of New Zealand’s oldest clubs. Originally known as Cheltenham Swimming, North Shore was born after an amalgamation with Devonport Swimming Club after World War 1.

The club moved to AUT Millennium in 2002, becoming a foundation club alongside North Harbour Water Polo, Bays Athletics and NorthSport Olympic Weightlifting.

Current head coach, Thomas Ansorg explains that the club is focused on developing athletes from grass roots all the way to Olympic level.

“It is a club of excellence with a culture of winning”, states Ansorg.

The club definitely has a rich tradition of success. Since its inception, NSS has helped propel over 30 swimmers onto Olympic Games, World Championship and Commonwealth Games teams.

Two years after joining NSS, Laura became part of the successful history of the club when she qualified to compete at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

“Joining North Shore really made me feel like an official part of the AUT Millennium family. Qualifying for the Commonwealth Games was a dream come true.”

“When I joined North Shore I became an AUT Millennium Scholarship Athlete and had the opportunity to train in the public gym. It was often the small things like meeting members and accessing different parts of the facility that gave me an added edge of motivation to train hard every single day.”

In addition to the training facilities and meeting members, Laura says that it’s some of the smaller details of the facility that inspire her.

“When we’d do dive sprints at training, I’d often look at the ‘Be the Best You Can Be’ sign on the far wall. That message resonates with me, especially on days where I’d rather be in bed than at training.”

Penny Slack & Laura QuilterAfter more than five years training at AUT Millennium, Laura’s journey with the facility changed again.

In January 2016 the communications student secured a job in the marketing department.

“Working at AUT Millennium opened my eyes, big time. I had no idea how much went on behind the scenes! There are nine community service units looking after thousands of people.”

“There’s so much happening all the time, it has been a real learning experience switching from sports to a professional position.”

While the aquatic athlete has stepped back from full time training for now, Laura attributes her successes in 2016, which included her first individual lifesaving world title and World Record, to the support networks of both her sporting and professional family.

“One of my favourite moments since starting work was seeing my colleagues in the stands during the Olympic Trials. You know you’re working with a pretty cool team when they’re willing to show their support in person.”

“AUT Millennium and North Shore Swimming have genuinely helped me chase my own dreams. I’ve represented New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games, I’ve competed in three Surf Lifesaving World Championships and I’ve heard the national anthem be played while I stood on top of the podium.”

“I can honestly say this would not have been possible without North Shore Swimming and AUT Millennium. I’m proud to be a part of this facility and its family.”