July 2019,

Rebbecca Dubber's Athlete Life

There are few relationships between an athlete and their Athlete Life Advisor as enduring as that of Para swimmer Rebecca Dubber and Karin Adelinger-Smith. Newly retired Rebecca caught up with her High Performance Sport New Zealand Athlete Life Advisor of ten years recently. They met in the foyer of the Halberg Foundation where Rebecca works, the warmth and respect between them immediately apparent.
Rebecca described the final year of her long sporting career as tumultuous. The Paralympic bronze medallist had been in training for her third Paralympics when an elbow overuse injury flared up. It meant a return to surgery and rehabilitation, something Rebecca had sailed through before. But this time her elbow following surgery, while better, was no longer up to the intensity of a Paralympic campaign. After much soul-searching, Rebecca had to prioritise the long-term functionality of her arm over her Para swimming career.

Rebecca explained that there were countless ways that Karin has supported her over the past decade. Their work together had begun with education planning when Rebecca was still in high school. Back then, Rebecca says, she didn’t make the most of school. “I was headstrong and focussed on swimming, not NCEA.”
Karin helped Rebecca to explore her options, identifying a bridging certificate course at AUT that would provide a pathway into the Bachelor of Communication Studies (BCS). Rebecca loved studying journalism and public relations, and went on to complete the BCS. “When I look back on my transition from school to Uni, I don’t know how I would have done it without Karin’s help,” she says. “I would never have known that there was a bridging course.”
Then there was the time Karin helped Rebecca make the most of a sponsorship opportunity with ANZ, suggesting that Rebecca also request an internship with the company. It resulted in a four year paid internship that saw Rebecca gain experience in all facets of corporate public affairs.
Their focus more recently has been on preparing Rebecca for life after sport. “Retiring was a tough decision,” Rebecca says. “Karin helped me make the decision on my terms over the course of the past year.”

“In the end I realised that trying to win a Paralympic gold medal wasn’t as important as being able to use my arms in the future. I need my arms to look after myself, to drive, to one day pick up my child.”

Rebecca is loving her communications role at the Halberg Foundation. She also writes for LockerRoom and Attitude Pictures, and has made a list of all the things she wants to do in the future.
Karin is excited about the next phase of Rebecca’s life. “When she was younger I had to lend my voice to support hers. Now I’m in the background and Rebecca is leading on her own.”
Rebecca is clearly grateful for Karin’s support over the years. She looks directly at Karin, and says: “You’ve been my rock. It’s not just swimming, Uni and work – it’s been everything. I’ve been able to tell you things I haven’t told anyone. You don’t judge, and you can look at situations and analyse them in ways I never could.” Rebecca also acknowledged the contribution of every member of her support team, and has already started thinking about ways to ‘giveback’ to athletes in the future.