Ask any swimming expert to name the leading Australian distance freestyle swimmers for the last 50 years and they will come up with names such as Lorraine Crapp, Ilsa Konrads, Karen Moras, Shane Gould, Jenny Turrall, Michelle Ford, Tracey Wickham, and Hayley Lewis. Now they must add the name Natasha Bowron.
Natasha first came to the fore in January of this year when she was a member of the Australian team at the World Cup meets. Then the Aussies predicted "Natasha is the best young distance freestyle prospect since Hayley Lewis in 1990."
But did they believe that within four months she would be a World Short Course champion? On their prediction, the teenager herself believes "It would be nice to live up to it. Hayley was so good at a young age."
Born on January 31, 1982, in Sydney, Natasha has an older sister Bianca who is her number one supporter. Like most families who have children who swim, it is a family affair. Her morning alarm goes at 4:30 and 45 minutes later, taken by her father, she is in the water training for two hours. Breakfast followed by school is next on the agenda. Natasha spends another two hours in the water after school. Before bed, dinner and homework have to be fit in.
There was no need for Natasha, the youngest member of the team, to be homesick at the World Short Course Championships, since mum and dad, the ever-devoted parents, made the journey to Sweden. If they were not enough, one of her schoolmates and training partner, Emma Johnson, was also on the team.
Both are coached by Brian Wilkinson at the Wilkinson club. They train at the Sydney Aquatic Centre, venue for the 2000 Olympic Games, where Natasha hopes to be one of Australia's many Olympic gold-medal winners.
Going into the championships, her best 800 freestyle time was 8:30.35 giving her hope of a medal. As she admitted, "I thought I had a good chance but you don't expect to win, you hope to win!"
She went into the time final trying to treat it "just like any other race." Her first reaction after winning was "world champion, it's really excellent," adding "it was extremely tough and my whole body hurts." But as she had time to reflect she admitted "the first 400 was controlled. At 600 I struggled. With 100 to go I knew I definitely had it." But also, "I had hoped to go faster." But the 8:26.45 was nearly four seconds faster than her previous best.
That night she took a while to go to sleep but the medal on the bedside table in her room that she shared with Rebecca Brown was no dream - it was for real.
In the 400 freestyle she qualified first for the final, but could not match the speed of Olympic 200 freestyle gold medallist Claudia Poll of Costa Rica. Natasha's time of 4:05.76 brought her silver. But in her first year on the international scene, a gold and a silver at a world championships is a very impressive start to a bright sporting career.
Life at home in Australia is very regimented and at times she gets envious of her friends who have time for social lives. But she just thinks to herself "How many of them have been all around Europe and I'm only 15."
Like any other teenager, she has her heroes and heroines. These are Carl Lewis and Nicole Stevenson. But she is also aware of the history and heritage that Australian swimming has, naming such great champions as Murray Rose, Dawn Fraser, John Devitt, and Duncan Armstrong - a group of which she wants to be a part.
Natasha Bowron's motivation is so great that she never feels she wants to take too much of a break from the sport. Her aim, as it is for most Australians, is the 2000 Olympic Games in her home city, Sydney, when she believes "I'll be at a pretty good age."