Why Olympian Anna Simcic quit swimming

The Olympian explains why she's no longer making waves
Michelle Hyslop

She’s won three Commonwealth medals – a gold and two silvers – in the backstroke and made it to the 200m final at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, so many fans were surprised not to see Anna Simcic take the lead in the swimming challenges on Celebrity Treasure Island.

But the former athlete, 49, from Christchurch, insists she’s done her dash when it comes to making a splash. “I haven’t swum since I hung up my togs in 1996,” she tells Woman’s Day. “Swimming is one of those sports where you’re all-in, training for six hours a day. I knew before I went to the Olympics that I’d be retiring and moving on with my life.

“Some swimmers continue for health and fitness when they retire, but I’ve chosen to run every day. I’ve maybe been in a chlorinated pool twice since Atlanta. It’s ridiculous!”

A gastro bug nearly took Anna out of the competition

But Anna insists she was fine with the water challenges on the TVNZ 2 show. “The hard part was the big melting pot of hunger, sleep deprivation and the social game,” the mum-of-three says. “But the worst bit was when I had a gastro bug. You didn’t see it on TV, but I was running to the bush or the toilet about 100 times a day. Even in the middle of a battle, I had to go! It went on for four days.

“I was physically depleted and missing my kids desperately, questioning what I was doing there. My youngest was turning 13, my oldest was going off to uni and I wasn’t there. There were tears on camera and off.”

However, winning some money for her chosen charity, I Am Hope, was a high point for Anna, who explains that the mental health organisation hits “very close to home”.

“I had a really rough 10 years. We had the Christchurch earthquake, a marriage break-up with three young kids and then my father-in-law committed suicide. Supporting my children through the impact and ripple effect was really hard – and it’s still difficult now. Living out the horror of that is why I’ve chosen to be aligned to them and I was really chuffed to put some money in their pot.”

To donate to I Am Hope, visit If you’re struggling with mental health, text or call 1737 for free assistance. For the Suicide Crisis Hotline, call 0508 TAUTOKO. In an emergency, always dial 111.

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