By Casey O’connor
On Tuesday morning, 20-year-old Stanthorpe swimmer Ben Armbruster walked out onto the pool deck preparing for the biggest race of his career to date at the final of the Commonwealth Games men’s 50 backstroke event.
Lights went on across the district as people (with strong coffee in hand) glued themselves to the Television.
There was a moment of blind panic among his big army of supporters as the 7 TV network crossed to their breakfast programme as the swimmers were about to jump into the pool and take up their starting positions.
Calm was restored as the correct TV channel was found and Stanthorpe held their collective breaths throughout the race.
A fairytale medal finish was not in the stars but in the minds of family friends and supporters, Ben Armbruster did not need a medal to be a winner.
Ben placed seventh overall with a time of 25.37 seconds, just over seven-tenths of a second behind race winner Andrew Jeffcoat of New Zealand.
This young man was thrilled to be selected for the team and hoped to swim a PB. To have made it through the Heat swim and Semi-Finals was beyond his expectations.
Armbruster’s long-time coach and confidant, Gail Smail said she spoke to Ben between the Heats and Semifinals, and he was extremely excited. “I don’t think he’d had much sleep,” she said.
Gail said she could not be prouder of her former charge and believes he will definitely be on the pool deck in Paris in 2024.
“To make a final in your first ever overseas trip and first international meet as a member of the Dolphins team is an amazing achievement,” Smail said.
Armbruster will head home with the team on Saturday. He will have a short break to give him time to recover and readjust. Armbruster is now training with the Bond University squad under the guidance of Coach Chris Mooney. It will not be too long before Mooney has him back in the pool preparing for the upcoming Australian Short Course Championships, the University games and Bond University meet.
This of course is just the start of the long road to the Paris Olympics in 2024. Not bad for the kid from Stanthorpe where, as they said during Tuesday morning’s commentary, the pool only opens for five or six months of the year.
Take a bow Ben Armbruster you are a credit to yourself your family, your coaches, your supporters and your town.