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Aly Bull: Iron Woman, Olympian and firefighter

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Expert
2nd February, 2022
1

Almost six months ago to the day, Aly Bull and Alyce Wood achieved a personal best time of 1:37.412 in the Final of the women’s K2 500 metres at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

While being tantalisingly close to the podium, just 0.6 seconds off the medals, was a challenging feeling to grapple with, to achieve a personal best in a final is something that Bull and Wood are both extremely proud of.

Now, Bull has a different challenge in front of her and will this weekend compete in the next round of the Nutri-Grain Iron Series. She is currently ranked fifth and is looking for a big closing weekend.

The four-day carnival on the Gold Coast will decide who is crowned the 2022 champions.

So how did dual-athlete Bull manage her training and mental health to be able to ride the rollercoaster from a Tokyo Finals appearance to preparing herself for another Iron Series?

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“Even getting to the Olympics felt like such a gift because at one stage we weren’t even sure if they would go ahead, so from the moment I arrived, I felt like we were riding a rollercoaster of emotion,” said Bull.

“I was so proud of what we did in Tokyo, to be half a second off the podium and do a personal best in a final; there’s not much more you can do.

“Fortunately, two weeks quarantine in Howard Springs was a quick way to come back down to earth and think about what I wanted to do next.”

Once isolation ended, Bull, her partner Cody and their dog went camping and had the chance to switch off. Then slowly, Bull started getting back into the surf, enjoying being out there without the pressure of training specifically for a race.

Then, she told her kayak coach that she wanted to do the Summer Surf competition at Alexandra Headland SLSC and her kayak coach responded with enthusiasm and curiosity.

“My coach is from Europe so didn’t fully understand what Surf Lifesaving is, so he has learnt a lot and learnt it quickly to help me juggle my sessions so I’m not going too hard for too many session in a row,” said Bull.

“He has been amazing; he knows that I am in a good mental space, loving what I am doing and he sees me putting the hard work for kayak so he trusts me to do a surf session in the afternoon to get the same training outcomes that I would get in a kayak.”

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Bull admits that she finds it hard to ‘sit still’ and so it comes as no surprise that her kayak and surf commitments are not the only things keeping her busy.

Bull also works for Queensland Fire and Rescue Service. In a schedule that requires two days of ten-hour day shifts followed by two days of 14-hour night shifts, this means training early in the morning before a night shift or in the late morning after a night shift.

“I love what I do and everyone there is very supportive of what I do outside work,” said Bull.

“They love watching me race; they tell me that they are tuning in on the weekend and my first thought is ‘please don’t’.”

It was Bull’s work schedule which meant she was only able to make the first day of qualification for this current Iron Woman series, but was given a lifeline through a wildcard entry. This was a real thrill for Bull, who had only decided to take part in qualification at the last moment.

Through both her professional career and her life in the water, the thread running through is that Bull likes to help people.

“In surf lifesaving we are there to patrol the beaches and to volunteer our time to look after the community when they are going for a swim,” said Bull.

“It’s an added bonus that we can race and compete in your local club cap, which I am still so proud to do.

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“Then as a firefighter, I have found a career which allows me to go out and help people in their hardest moments.

“That can be hard, but when we do our job properly and do it well, it is extremely rewarding to see our good efforts can help people get back on track.”

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