Swim club's unlikely rise to top gong
FIVE years ago, Val Kalmikovs and Joy Symons were faced with a dilemma.
They had just taken over ownership of the Shut the Gate Swim School in Rockhampton but wanted to change the name of the business.
To them, the name wasn't theirs and it came with an almost unwelcoming outlook.
Joy remembers being upset that they couldn't change the name.
But looking back, they both feel silly, their school won the 2016 Queensland Austswim Swim School of the Year award.
It is the second time a Central Queensland swim school has won the coveted award after Caribeae.
"It was a huge process just to apply. There was heaps of different criteria and we had to hit all sorts of points,” Joy said.
"We were up against huge swimming franchises like Laurie Lawrence's, Sam Riley's and many more. For a little swim school I am just so proud. We would be less than a quarter of the size of those big clubs.”
Accepting that they were stuck with the name Shut the Gate, ironically paved the way for their award.
"I guess it made us focus on pool safety as our number one priority. We have really tried to make that a part of who we are,” she said.
"So we accepted the name and grew with it. We couldn't afford to change the name, change the logo and signage and everything. Lucky we didn't though I guess.
"It is just a good reminder that people really do need to be safe around the water.
"I think we won the award due to our passion and customer service too. We try and make it a family and encourage people to be a part of it.”
Swimming has been a lifelong companion for both Joy and Val. Joy made it to the World Championships and Val to the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games.
They have recently re-developed their program which now incorporates aquatic sport development. Essentially the can teach swimming, water polo, synchronised, under-water hockey and life-saving.