Brave health struggles behind star's emotional TV interview

Brave health struggles behind star's emotional TV interview

Brisbane: Scorching times, exhilarating neck-and-neck battles and emotional poolside interviews defined the opening night of Australia’s Paris 2024 swimming trials.

Among the interviews that tugged at the heart strings on Monday night was an exchange on Nine with Lani Pallister, who in recent years has had heart surgery and battled an eating disorder.

She’s now bound for Paris.

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Elated after securing her ticket to her first Olympic Games, the 22-year-old Gold Coast-based distance swimmer did her best to choke back tears.

Joining Pallister in the interview with Paralympic gold medallist Ellie Cole was Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus, who put an arm around her with a look of overflowing pride.

Lani Pallister (right) and Ariarne Titmus (centre) speak to Ellie Cole poolside at the trials.

Lani Pallister (right) and Ariarne Titmus (centre) speak to Ellie Cole poolside at the trials. Nine

Titmus had blasted through the women’s 400m freestyle final in 3:55.44, falling short of her own world record by just 0.06 of a second, and Pallister had confirmed her selection by finishing second in 4:02.27, beating Swimming Australia’s Olympic qualification time by more than two seconds.

“I don’t want to cry on camera,” Pallister said.

“It’s been huge. I was thinking about three years ago all through today, to be honest, and I didn’t think I’d be here standing behind the blocks.”

Watch Australia’s Paris 2024 swimming trials on Nine and 9Now.

Pallister had her sights set on making the Dolphins team for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, but was diagnosed with a heart condition called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). The condition causes an irregular or elevated heartbeat.

Her life was also rocked in 2021 by body image struggles that had her comparing her own physique with those of other swimmers.

“I look at Ariarne and a lot of the other girls, I look at their bodies and think, ‘Wow, I wish I looked like that’,” Pallister told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2022.

“Being younger last year, not being as mature in my body, I got stuck in this idea that I need to eat less to swim better because I’ll be lighter.”

As Pallister spoke on the Nine broadcast on Monday night, her mum Janelle Pallister (née Elford), an Olympic swimmer in Seoul in 1988, watched on like the proudest mother in the world.

“I just wanted to try to find her to give her a hug before I started crying,” Pallister said of her mum.

“I’m so grateful. Without my mum bringing me the whole way up through swimming and then partnering with Bohly [coach Michael Bohl] at the end of 2021 … I’m just so grateful for all that they’ve done for me and I can’t wait to continue the family legacy in Paris this year.”

Ariarne Titmus (left) and Lani Pallister after the women's 400m freestyle final.

Ariarne Titmus (left) and Lani Pallister after the women’s 400m freestyle final. Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Among Monday night’s impressive swims was what Kaylee McKeown laid down in the women’s 200m individual medley final.

The Olympic champion broke her own national record, tearing through the race in 2:06.63.

Australia’s most successful Olympian, five-time gold medallist Emma McKeon, guaranteed her place on the team by winning the women’s 100m butterfly final in 56.85 seconds.

In the men’s 400m freestyle final, world champions Elijah Winnington and Sam Short could hardly be split en route to booking their places on the Paris Games team.

Winnington won a to-and-fro battle by just 0.64 of a second, stopping the clock at 3:43.26.

Brenden Hall is set for his fifth Paralympic appearance after holding off young guns Harrison Vig and Tim Hodge in the men’s S9 400m freestyle, recording a time of 4:16.17.

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