John and Vicki Wallace celebrate the silver medal won by their daughter, Tessa, at the Commonwealth Games.
John and Vicki Wallace celebrate the silver medal won by their daughter, Tessa, at the Commonwealth Games. Warren Lynam

Tessa always queen of pool

FROM the moment she got into the water as a baby, Tessa Wallace was queen of the pool.

On Wednesday night Tessa, 17, of Caloundra, won her first Commonwealth Games medal after taking silver in the 200m breaststroke final.

She narrowly missed gold, finishing just behind Australian golden girl Leisel Jones.

Winning a silver medal capped off a remarkable Games debut for Tessa, but her stellar performance was no surprise to her proud parents, John and Vicki Wallace, who always believed their girl had the determination to be a world beater.

The moment was extra special for Mr Wallace, a swim school director who has trained his daughter since she was 13.

“I spoke to Tessa on the phone just before she went out to the marshalling area and I said to her, ‘this race is anyone's'. Not one person is meant to win it,” Mr Wallace said.

“I told her to give it her all and there's no doubt she gave everything.”

As a child Tessa grew up living on-site at the Caloundra Aquatic Centre, where Mr Wallace operates his swim school.

When Tessa was a baby she refused to let Mr Wallace hold her, so he decided taking her to baby swim classes would be a great way to bond with his little girl.

“After that there were no problems. Teaching her to swim as a baby made us really close,” Mr Wallace said.

“Tessa took really naturally to swimming and by the age of two she was paddling about, no problems.”

However, Tessa's ease in the water came at a cost.

As a two-year-old she developed a practical joke, floating on top of the water as if she had drowned.

Mr Wallace recalled people rushed to his daughter's aid` on several occasions, only to be laughed at.

“We had to put a stop to that party trick pretty quickly,” he giggled.

Tessa excelled in a range of sports and had actually dreamed of being a gymnast.

At the age of 12, however, after excelling in the pool with minimal training, Tessa decided to focus on swimming with her father as her coach.

Her dream was always to swim for Australia.

“Tessa is a very determined girl and has always been so dedicated to her training,” Mr Wallace said.

“Being her dad and her coach is hard and there have been times we've had words.

“We work on the theory that as soon as we walk through the pool gates I'm Tessa's coach, but when we walk out, I'm her dad.”

The Wallaces decided not to travel to Delhi to watch their daughter compete.

Mr Wallace said it was too frustrating as Tessa's coach to be stuck in the grandstand unable to talk to his daughter.

“I would have loved to watch her race but the process is really frustrating.” he said.

“The only contact I could have had with her was by phone.

“It would have been great to give her a big hug after the race, but Tessa's got plenty of those waiting for her when she gets home.”

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