Student Athlete Profile- Ben Freeman


What is your sport?

Ultra Marathon Swimmer

How many hours per week do you spend training/playing?

On average about 20 hours a week. Two hours in the morning from 5-7am and two in the afternoon from 5-7 pm

What study are you undertaking at ANU? What year of study are you in?

2nd year double degree in Commerce and Business Administration

How do you juggle the commitments of playing sport and studying?

I think time management is very important and this is something I have learned through sport. I also find training in the morning wakes me up and increases my productivity throughout the day.

Does sport assist you in your academic pursuits?

Yes absolutely, sport has allowed me to pursue more academic opportunities

Greatest sporting achievement.

Swimming the English Channel in 2015

What is your long term sporting goal?

Complete the Ocean 7's challenge. It is the seven hardest channel swims in the world and currently no Australian has completed it. I would also like to do an ice mile which is a mile swim in water under five degrees.

Who has had the greatest influence on your sporting career thus far?

Definitely my Mum, I wouldn’t be doing what I do without her.

Who is your sporting idol & why?

Don Riddington. In 2013 he was the oldest Australian to swim the English Channel at 68 year of age. I love his mental outlook on swimming and how he breaks down his swims into small pieces and chips away at it as he goes.

Any superstitions or unusual game day preparations?

I smother myself in Vaseline... this is to stop chafing while I swim, however this is nothing unusual. I also eat as much as I can the few days prior to carbo load

Tell us something interesting about you:

I grew up in a military family so we have travelled around the world. I have older twin sisters and a younger brother.

Favourite Music Artist:

Queen and Kanye

If you found yourself on Masterchef and had to cook one dish to win it all, what would your specialty dish be:

Pasta because I eat it all the time.

Post Competition Report

What was your motivation for achieving the Triple Crown?

My English Channel swim in 2015 was definitely a massive achievement and a motivator for me. I hadn’t even really considered attempting the Triple Crown until a year after my Channel swim. It took me some time post English Channel swim to figure out what was next for me, as I knew that I loved having a challenge to work towards. Once I decided I wanted to be part of the Triple Crown club, I really lifted my training efforts and started to put in the work.

How did you train for each of the swims of your Triple Crown?

Benjamin Freeman: I train under Les Barclay at the Queanbeyan/Telopea Swim Club in Canberra. Our squad has a reputation of producing excellent open water athletes. For all of my Triple Crown swims, my training regimen consisted of two hours in the morning from 5-7 am, working on high intensity/technical skills and another two hours training in the afternoon. Afternoon training was carried out in an outdoor unheated pool during the Canberra winter. The water temperature was around 13 degrees centigrade/ 55F. My focus was swimming the kilometres and acclimatising to the cold water. On average I swam around 70 kilometres a week. However I did swim several big challenge weeks swimming up to 130 kilometres. I think mental preparation is the most vital aspect of training. If you are confident in the work you have put in, and you want nothing else but to conquer the swims, there is very little that can stop you.

How do you balance your work (or study) with all this training?

Benjamin Freeman: I am currently a full time student at the Australian National University studying a double degree in Business and Commerce. I also work part-time for three days of the week at a Project Consultancy Firm. I think time management and discipline is the only way it works. If you want to achieve your goal, then you are prepared to work hard, get up early in the morning to fit in your training and sacrifice some of your social life to achieve your dream. Having a support network of people around you, who want to see you succeed, also helps to motivate you.

Were any of the Triple Crown swims easier - or more enjoyable - than the others?

All three of the swims are fantastic in their own unique way. The English Channel was an amazing experience. I was fortunate enough to have great conditions and started my swim just after sunrise, so I was able to swim in daylight the whole way. I was in awe the whole swim, thinking to myself ‘I’m actually swimming the Channel’. Climbing on to the rocks in France was the most incredible experience of my life and the sense of accomplishment was fantastic.
The 20 Bridges Swim around Manhattan Island was another fantastic swim. We started just near the Statue of Liberty and it was incredible swimming under the 20 bridges that span the island. Swimming past some iconic landmarks keeps your mind occupied and the swim interesting. Swimming down the last stretch of the Hudson River, which normally by the end of a long swim, you are starting to feel tired, was so much fun, reaching speeds of 10 kilometres an hour.

The Catalina Channel for me was definitely the most rewarding swim I’ve ever done. Starting at midnight in the pitch black was slightly eerie with a seal chasing a flying fish the only sound breaking the silence. Swimming and seeing the neon green luminescence light up your hand as it pulled through the water was magical. As the sun rose I was treated to dolphins swimming and playing nearby. Coming face to face with an enormous sun fish and seeing its fin sticking out of the water as it slowly swam around me boosted my spirits. I knew the end was in sight and I just had to conquer the swell and massive boulders at the shore. My legs had started cramping quite early on in the swim and in the last 45 minutes, my arms started cramping as well. Cramping was not something I had ever experienced before when swimming. Pushing through this pain and making it to the mainland, sounds insane, but it was incredible. Climbing out on to the boulders at the shore as the sun came out from behind a cloud was spectacular.

Were any of the Triple Crown swims harder than the others?

The Catalina Channel swim for me was definitely the hardest. This however was due to the cramping in my arms and legs that I experienced. If I did all three of the swims on the same day in the same physical conditions, the English Channel would be the toughest. There is no easy way to make this swim. You must train to deal with the cold, you must be prepared for the currents to push you off course, and you must be prepared to make the distance, sometimes swimming parallel to the shoreline as you are guided through the currents.

Did you keep the same feeding pattern on all three swims?

I kept it consistent for all three of the swims. I drink 230mls every 30 mins alternating between carbohydrates and electrolytes. The drinks can be prepared before the swim which makes it much easier for my support crew.