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New Boost Behind Aussie Swimmers

Apr 25, 2010  - Craig Lord

An Aussie inventor from Beechboro has created an underwater swimming device that enables swimmers to practice high speed turns and underwater kicking, according to reports Down Under. The WatrWing helps swimmers "steer themselves underwater, ascend, descend, twist and turn in a range of movements".

The inventor, Heather Pritchard, 49, has sent out her initial order for the WatrWing: to the NSW Institute of Sport. Head coach there, Jim Fowlie, is now using the device to train Olympic swimmers. Pritchard now hopes to roll her device (strictly forbidden in competition along with shiny suits that boost performance) to swimmers around Australia. 

Pritchard is currently working with swimming coaches to design a more buoyant device, the WatrWing Junior, for children learning to swim. Some swimming teachers believe that children are better taught to swim with no aids. 

Institute of Sport Head Coach, Fowlie told the Aussie media: "It is critical for all swimmers to develop good underwater skills, particularly when dealing with changes in water pressure. The WatrWing helps them increase their kicking and breathing skills."

Pritchard is reported to have made the prototype for the device three years ago in Broome using a plastic real estate sign and poly pipe. "People showed great interest in it," she told reporters. "It’s fast, it’s fun and it’s a challenge."

Pritchard is suffering from multiple sclerosis but that has not dampened her enthusiasm for swimming. She uses her own invention at the local pool and in the ocean and says: "In my opinion, one of the most important things in coping with multiple sclerosis is taking regular exercise. I encourage other people to keep going and keep pushing."