Abby Armstrong is Samoa Events International Female Athlete for 2016. Her winning effort in the inaugural Apolima Strait swim wins her the award.
The 28yr old from Hamilton New Zealand, and many other women from overseas made a huge contribution to another winning year for Samoa Events (SE).
There was an upsurge of international visitors to SE’s races and activities across the board this year. It started early with the Falefa Falls Race in January, to the Sau’ai Savai’i Giants’ Triathlon in October. There were more international visitors this year than ever before.
More than that, over half of those international participants were women. That transferred to there being more overseas Female champions (9) across events than males (6). This does not include participants from the local expat community that competed and won events also.
The shortlist for International Female Athlete was easy enough to be sorted. It really came down to five amazing performances, three swimmers, a Triathlete and a Cyclist.
The performances of Abby Armstrong and Bronwen Burmester (Apolima Strait), Elizabeth Schlicher (Five Islands), Alison Heather (Warrior Half Ironman) and Rebecca Marley (Ford Tour of Samoa) came with super human efforts in their races and worthy of national pride and acknoledgement
Abby Armstrong (28) and Bronwen Burmester’s (60) efforts to swim from Upolu to Savaii was inspirational stuff. Armstrong for coming first in an incredible time of time of 6hours and 30mins, and Burmester for swimming Apolima Strait at the good age of sixty. She is the oldest person to swim from Upolu to Savaii. Her time of 8hrs 05minutes was the third fastest time in the inaugural race.
Both women took on the 22.3km swim in their respective journeys to deal with the big “D” in their lives. They both openly talked about handling and tackling depression in their pre-race releases. The journey to swim the big swim has helped them put it in its place.
The other Apolima Strait female swimmer was Katie Sinclair. Her effort is no less ordinary, far from it. Watching her swim that day against the sweeping current while she tried to stay on course for 22.3km was incredible viewing. I could only watch with complete amazement of her feat.
The third finalist is 28yr old Elizabeth Schlicher from California. She came to Samoa in May to tackle the tough Five Islands Swims. She was up against two excellent swimmers in Christina Harris and Sandra Boubee.
Harris was the defending champion from the year before and knew the swims to her advantage. But Schlicher was that much quicker even when she had to play catch up in the 6km Falefa Falls & Bay Swim (Matautu Island). Schlicher won all five swims in convincing style.
The fourth finalist is Alison Heather. She won Warrior this year in the Women’s Race. The Professor’s (Otago University) race time of 7hrs 18mins 28secs in the Half Ironman distance is not fast. Hers was a classic case of the Turtle and the Hare type of race. She was not the fastest by far, but she was the first across the line having completed the entire course. The other competitors took wrong turns and did not complete the race accordingly.
Our fifth finalist is the incredible Rebecca Marley (28) from Christchurch. Her will to win the Tour of Samoa in September in the women’s race, after her partner Christian Wengler crashed out in a life threatening accident on the third day of the tour, was tenacious stuff. In doing so, she also defended her title from the previous hear.
Rebecca finished eighth in a field of 22, a brilliant and gutsy effort in what was a very challenging tour. She finished ahead of most men on the Tour.
In the end, Armstrong’s record breaking efforts in the inaugural 22.3km swim gives her the nod for the Award this year. It is a well-deserved recognition.
It was a tough swim for Abby. In the last 10km of the swim, she kept vomiting and throwing up whatever liquids and food she put down her to sustain and nourish her small frame. It was hard on her parents seeing their precious daughter suffer in that way. Mum Jo and dad Peter were on the support boat that day. Both were very emotional at the finish line.
The Health and Sport Science student from Hamilton, NZ had it tough. She was totally spent at the finish. Her will to survive and reach the finish was tested to the max. Kudos to the support crew, mainly her kayaker and training partner Pat Gallagher, he would not let her quit on him.
Abby Armstrong, you are Samoa Events’ Female International Athlete of the Year for 2016.
The notable performances by visiting Women in Samoa this year.
Women Winners in 2016
Feb. Lesley Turner Hal (Auck, NZL), 10km Course Record, Falefa Falls
April. Abby Armstrong (Hamilton, NZL), 1st Apolima Strait Upolu to Savaii Swim, 6hrs 30secs
April. Jacqui Webster (AUST), 1st Ride Savaii (Female course record)
April. Alex Benneger (AUSTRIA), 1st Savaii Games Women’s Half Marathon (course record)
May. Elizabeth Schlicher (CA, USA), 1st Five Islands
July. Eliza Beasely (AUST), Lalomanu 10km, Course Record (48:02)
July. Alison Heather (Dunedin, NZL), 1st Samoa Warrior / Amanda Popplewell (Auck, NZL), Beat the Heat
Aug. Christina Harris (Nelson, NZL), 1st Pacific Open Water Challenge (10km & 5km swims)
Aug. Maryanne Heffernan (Adelaide, SA), Samoa Swim Series champion
Sept. Rebecca Marley (Christchurch, NZL), Ford Tour of Samoa (Defending champion)