New kid on the blocks
SAMANTHA McKenna's sporting role model is Liesel Jones and in March the Lismore teenager will have the opportunity to compete against the three-time Olympian at the Australian Swimming Championships.
The championships, to be staged in Adelaide from March 15-22, will serve as a selection trial for the London Olympic Games.
McKenna earned the right to line up with Australia's best swimmers by breaking the 36-second mark for the 50m breaststroke.
McKenna's personal best time for the event is 35.94 seconds.
The St John's College Woodlawn student cleaned up at the NSW Swimming Country Regional Championships at Gunnedah over the weekend, claiming gold in the 200m individual medley and 800m, 400m and 200m freestyle events.
Her younger brother Alex also impressed, winning an incredible 11 gold medals at the meet.
The siblings are striving to represent their country and it all started in the family pool where they learnt to swim purely for survival.
"I get up at 5.15 in the morning, train until 7.30am and then go to school," Samantha McKenna said.
"Then I'll train again from 3.30 to 6.30pm.
"There'll be some nerves for me (at the Australian Championships) but I'll just try to block them out."
Both the McKenna kids are coached by Ken Malcolm at the Trinity Lismore Swimming Club.
Malcolm believes Samantha McKenna has the mentality to handle the spotlight that will be on her at the Olympic trials.
"It won't faze her," he said.
"She's a good trainer, knows how to compete and she wants it.
"I think she has all the North Coast records for 100m breaststroke except at open level and she's in the top 20 in Australia for her age."
Younger sibling Alex is just as keen to succeed.
"I play soccer for Goonellabah, futsal at the Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre with some school friends and I do some karate at Success Martial Arts in South Lismore," he said.
"I like keeping busy and this all helps my endurance with swimming.
"When me and Samantha were little my parents got us into the sport just as a way to learn to swim because we have a pool at home.
"Then we started pushing each other to get better."