Legendary swimming coach Roly Crichton spent half a year in hospital recovering from illness, now he’s been given the all clear to get back to the pool.
After splitting with Dame Sophie Pascoe in April following a successful 20-year partnership as her mentor, he’s taken a new head coaching role at New Zealand’s only university swim club, at the University of Canterbury.
Poolside is where the Paralympic gold medallist feels most alive, and coaching is what keeps him going, with more than a dozen students turning up twice a week to learn from him.
"I want you to control, breathing is a habit, you’ve got to have it but not all the time. Turn your head too much your head will fall off," Crichton tells his students.
He says the pools the students use are warmer than most of the flats they live in.
"The best part of the day is walking into the building, it’s so nice and warm. You actually feel you want to get in. It’s such a great way to start the day," swimmer Caitlin Roscheer said.
The swim club is motivation for the students to get up early and allows them to take a break from their studies.
"It’s really nice to meet people beyond their fresher year. I’m getting to meet people doing Masters and PHDs as well. It gets you up in the morning otherwise I’d be in bed till midday," club member Tamon Smith said.
In return for his expertise, swimmers pay Crichton in feijoas.
Swimmer George Glover says "at the flat we have a huge feijoa tree and back in Marlborough at home I steal them from grandma and bring them down".
The swimming great is thankful for his new gig and the feijoas.
"I eat too many sometimes and end up on the toilet."
And although his students get a unique experience being under his guidance, he believes they’re doing something good for him.
"It’s got routine back into my life. From day one I had to get out of bed and get here and it was a real struggle so it’s been an awesome thing, I owe them really."