WHEN Laurie Lawrence handed Caloundra's Tessa Wallace a copy of his book 'Five Ring Fever' she was humbled by the kind gesture from the senior statesman of Australian swimming.
And when she turned the first leaf she was nearly brought to tears.
On the inside cover was a hand-written note: "To Tessa, one day I hope to write a book about you."
It was Lawrence's way of expressing his unwavering admiration for Wallace, who at 18 has overcome the remotest of odds, climbed from a deep, dark chasm of self-doubt and returned from the brink of retirement to fulfil her childhood dream of competing at the Olympic Games.
Wallace's story is often told. She grew up around the pool literally - living on site at Caloundra Aquatic Centre where her father John coached. At 17 she became a Commonwealth silver medallist when she finished behind Liesel Jones in her pet event, the 200m breaststroke.
However from there everything went awry.
She underwent surgery on a chronic knee problem. In May 2011 she was diagnosed with Ross River virus which sent her training regime into free fall.
She was also diagnosed with anaemia. She says she is still not right, but refuses to concede it is a weakness.
Lawrence describes her effort to win the 200m breaststroke at the 2012 Australian Swimming Championships as "one of the most inspirational things I have ever seen" and Wallace as a shining example for all young people.
The fact he has coached at three Games and guided his charges to 10 gold, 11 silver and 12 bronze Olympic medals puts his statement into perspective.
"Tessa hasn't asked for sympathy and she hasn't asked to be put up on a pedestal," Lawrence told The Daily just minutes before jetting off to Europe for the Games. "All she wants to do is get on with the job, train and prepare as best she can for her race. That's probably the most important thing in life. Win, lose or draw, when time comes to race you've got to be ready. She epitomises that.
"If she gets beaten over there, I know one thing for sure, she'll lean across the lane rope, shake hands, go under the water and say to herself 'I'll get you next time, I'll just have to train harder'. She is something special. She should be held up as a great example for not only kids on the Sunshine Coast, but all around Australia. Her story should reverberate around the country."
Club: Pelican Waters
Coach: John Wallace
Achievements: 9th 100m breaststroke 2010 Pan Pacs, silver 200m breaststroke 2010 Commonwealth Games, 1st 200m breaststroke 2011 Australian Swimming Championships.
Event: 200 breaststroke
When to see Tessa: 200m breaststroke heats from 7pm, August 1 (AEST time). Semi-finals from 4.30am, August 2. Finals from 4.30am, August 3.
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