Updated: Mar 18
When he’s not travelling around the world or tucking into haggis, our favourite Scotsman, Andrew 'Andy' Donaldson is usually near water.
Whether it’s helping our clients perfect their technique or churning out laps of his own, Andy has a passion for swimming after a very successful international career.
Since moving to Australia in 2013, Andy has excelled in pool and open water swimming and he's now formed Swimclan with mentor and personal friend, Martin Smoothy.
Andy spoke with us about his journey and swimming career while giving us an insight into the future of Swimclan.
How and when did you first get involved with swimming?
"My earliest memories of swimming go back to family holidays in Spain. Every morning my whole family would swim around this pylon at the beach every morning. Sitting on the shore, I would watch that and want to be out there with them in the elements enjoying that freedom.
My uncle John went on to teach me how to swim, he would grab me by the foot and pull me into the middle of the pool before letting me go so I was forced to learn quickly. I look back on it and obviously we don’t do that now, but it got the job done! My sister Hannah and older cousin Graeme then started competitive swimming back in Scotland and it wasn't long before I followed their footsteps into the sport.”
What have you achieved in swimming?
“My career started in the pool after joining local club North Ayrshire ASC in the west of Scotland. I started competing from the age seven and although I wasn’t the strongest or biggest, I always had good technique. My coach Sharon would have me race every event under the sun, and at age 11 I won my first national medal in the 400m Individual Medley racing against guys in the age group above me who were much bigger and had impressive moustaches.
From there I continued to grow and went on to win a number of titles at age group levels across Scottish and British national championships, breaking national records along the way. I knuckled down to pursue the Olympic dream and this ended up taking me around the world racing for club and country. It was some journey and I've always been very grateful to have met and worked with such incredible people along the way.
After moving to Australia in 2013, I discovered open water swimming and surf lifesaving. Coming from Scotland where you're considered quite brave to swim outdoors, these were both very new to me. However I enjoyed the fresh challenge and very fortunately went on to win some of the most iconic events here in Western Australia including the Busselton Jetty Swim and Rotnest Channel Swim as part of a team. I'm also one of a handful of swimmers to swim the channel between Saudi Arabia to Bahrain which is pretty cool."
What kind of benefits has swimming given to you mentally and physically?
"When I started out over twenty years ago, little did I know just how much the sport would go on to shape my world. It brought me over to the other side of the globe here in Australia and many of my closest friends were met through swimming, it's really amazing.
In terms of physical benefits, swimming really is the ultimate fully body workout. You’re using all of your muscle groups and developing your lung capacity because you obviously can’t breathe whenever you want. It's also a sport which teaches and prepares you for so many aspects of life such as being patient, handling pressure, dealing with hard times and developing an incredible work ethic. Not everyone wakes up before sunrise to jump into a pool on a rainy day so it can really test and push you to the limits, but you learn and grow a lot from it.
From a mental perspective I didn’t realise the benefits swimming can provide for you until I stepped away from the sport. It’s just so important for your mental wellbeing. Swimming for me is a part of who I am and if I miss it, then I feel it. I notice mental changes when I’ve been out of the water for a long time and for me, it acts as a release from the day to day activities because you can just switch off and just enjoy being in the present.”
What kind of career did you pursue while you were swimming?
"Outside of the pool, I followed my grandfather's footsteps into the world of business. My grandfather was a large inspiration in my life and I always admired how selfless and helpful he was to others around him. I didn't necessarily envisage myself running an accounting practice like he did, though I believed I could develop a well-rounded knowledge in business to one day use for helping others.
In Australia, I worked in public practice speciliaisng in audit, financial planning and superannuation. Over the years, I also held treasury capacities on several sporting committees and I completed both my RG146 Diploma of Financial Planning and professional Chartered Accountant qualifications."
What made you want to change career path and set up Swimclan?
"Although I enjoyed and learned many things working in public practice accounting, deep down I always knew it was not for me. From a young age, I had always wanted to use my skills and knowledge to help others, I just didn't know how best to do this. Earlier this year, I reconnected with Martin Smoothy and he presented a vision he had to create a swim business for adults.