By STEVE SPINKS
LENNOX HEAD'S Gemma Johnson has a lot to thank her parents for.
But there is one thing that they could have got better ... the date of her birth.
You see Gemma, who is the first monthly winner of The Northern Star Southern Cross Ten 2005 Junior Sports Star of the Year Award, is in an unfortunate predicament when it comes to her chosen sport of swimming.
The Ballina Indoor club member has just completed her first overseas competition, representing NSW in the New Zealand Age Championships from March 1-5.
Her winning time in the 50m freestyle of 26.92 seconds rates her as the fastest 14-year-old in Australia this year.
But 14-year-old competitors needn't worry too much.
When the Australian Age Championships start next week in Brisbane, Gemma will be competing in the 15-years division.
She turned 15 on March 13.
It happens every season.
Gemma swims as a 14-year-old all summer and then only weeks before the biggest meet, the Australian Championships, she has to move up in age groups.
"I'm hoping to make the final at Australian Age," Gemma said.
"I can't do anything about it (moving up in age division).
"I know it's going to happen, so I have to go and try."
While in New Zealand, Gemma also won a gold medal in the 100m freestyle with a blistering time of 58.58 seconds.
This ranked her as the third fastest 14-year-old in Australia.
Two relay gold medals and an individual silver in the 50m butterfly followed.
Next week, Gemma will contest five events. The 50m and 100m freestyle, the 50m butterfly and two relays with her Ballina club.
In the relay teams she will be joined by older sister Kate.
"I started competition swimming because Kate was competing," Gemma said.
"I had to go to carnivals and watch so my parents entered me."
In her very first carnival, and without any training, Gemma jumped into the water and won two gold medals in the 25m freestyle and 25m backstroke.
The Trinity Catholic College student has just returned from the State Catholic Colleges Titles in Sydney.
She won six gold and two silver medals and will continue to the NSW All-Schools carnival.
Gemma doesn't find the grind of swimming training to difficult.
"It can be hard sometimes," she said.
"But I want to do well so you have to train."
Her goal is to make an Australian team one day.
That wouldn't be out of place for a Ballina Indoor swimmer.
After all, her favourite swimmer and three-time Olympic gold medallist, Petria Thomas, started off as a Ballina Indoor club member.