Sarah Katsoulis is fast emerging as Australia’s top breaststroke swimmer.

Last week she beat Olympic champion Leisel Jones at the Telstra Australian Short Course Championships in Hobart to set a new Commonwealth Record and win gold in the 50 metre breaststroke.

Her scintillating performance stopped the clock at 29.61, just 0.03 seconds short of the short course world record.

“At the time I didn’t realise how close I was to world record but once I found out I was pretty stoked,” she says of her performance to Neos Kosmos English Edition.

The 25 year old also achieved a bronze in the 50m at the world titles in Rome two weeks ago, and finished a close fourth in the 100m.

This is pretty amazing, considering that Katsoulis was a late bloomer in swimming.

“I was actually more into horse riding but at about 13 swimming sort of took over so I decided to stick with that,” she explains.

At only 16, Katsoulis left her family and moved with her coach, Rohan Taylor to Melbourne.

“It was pretty tough to move here alone but Rohan got a job in Melbourne and there were no coaches where I was from,” she reminisces. “I was in a boarding house for a year and a half but one of the swimming families took me in for about a year.”

In 2006, Katsoulis was a finalist in the 50m, 100m, and 200m breast at the Telstra Commonwealth Games Trials in Melbourne. That year she experienced the biggest challenge of her career.

“I was supposed to compete in the World Short-Course championships in Shanghai but I had to pull out because of emergency surgery- two ankle surgeries and then I had my appendix out!”

But things looked up for Katsoulis. In 2008 she was third in the 100m and 200m breast and fourth in the 50m breast at the Telstra Australian Championships.

She also made the jump from the CA Tritons Swimming club to the Nunawading Swimming Club.

It was this year however, that has been the highlight of her career so far. She won the 50m breaststroke at the 2009 Australian Championships in March and her latest achievements in Rome and Hobart have only seen her excel further.

“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication,” she says. “I train every day, twice a day, except Sunday. I also do a lot of work out of the pool- three weight sessions a week and a bit of bike riding as well.”

In between her training Katsoulis is also studying exercise science part-time, which she hopes to finish next year.

“Swimming is my number one priority but this could be something to fall back onto afterwards,” she says.

Katsoulis is now gearing up to compete in the breaststroke at the 2009 FINA World Cup series in Singapore in November. Her ultimate goal is to make next year’s Australian Commonwealth Games swimming team and bring back a medal from Delhi.