This month’s Swimming Times
Swimming Times is the official magazine of the ASA and British Swimming. Read about the latest issue below. Click on the buttons to reveal the story.
- British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes has called on the sports minister to examine the entire funding system for elite sport following UK Sport’s ‘disappointing’ decision to turn down the appeal over the withdrawal of funding to synchronised swimming and women’s water polo. The GB governing body announced that it would now pursue a legal appeal over synchro but not for water polo.
- Nine-year-old Eve Naylor became the first child to swim in London’s Olympic pool since the Paralympic Games in 2012 thanks to Make-A-Wish Foundation UK. Eve was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at Christmas 2012, around the time that she started swimming.
- Swimming Times reader Leone Crick, 16, has explained how he took the swimming picture that won him the overall first prize in a national photographic competition. The self-portrait featuring Leone with hat, goggles and headphones and Beijing’s Water Cube pool in the background was chosen from more than 2,000 entries for the top prize in the Economic and Social Research Council’s ‘Where Do I Belong?’ contest for teenagers aged 14 to 18.
- Swimming is one of eight sports that will feature in the first Invictus Games, an international competition for wounded, injured and sick service people, which was launched by Prince Harry. More than 300 people from across the world are expected to compete at the inaugural Games in London from September 10-14.
Bromley SC swimmer Georgi Ward was 12 when she was diagnosed with scoliosis – but it’s never stopped her swimming or dampened her enthusiasm for life. Mum Ali Ward tells her story
‘Keep calm, it’s nothing...but it must be something, it’s not normal. What’s normal? She’s not equal, she’s not symmetrical, my gorgeous baby girl, now 12 years old, has a hump on her back
‘Through all this, Georgi has continued her swimming. She has never felt the need to cover up or allowed teenage self-consciousness to make her feel shy about her body. She knows others are worse off than her, in more pain and suffering
‘A couple of months ago, Georgi and her elder sister, Vicky, competed at Gravesend and Northfleet SC’s open meet. Georgi looked confident as she prepared to climb onto the block before her 50m breaststroke. I had treated her to her first ‘real racing costume’ and, as she bent over to grip the block, I felt so proud of my baby. A PB no less in that race!’
Karen Pickering - The former freestyle champion reveals how wartime courage and tragedy have influenced her own character
‘I would like more money in Olympic sports, more recognition for women in sport and minority sports and have more pages written on those sports. Then maybe we could have a little less on football.
‘The hardest thing I’ve had to do is move on from swimming after 20 years. It was really difficult. After the 2004 Olympics I didn’t think I could do another four years of the intensity it would need.
‘Before I die, I want to build a new home from scratch. Where we live we have a lot of land and the views are incredible so I would just move it slightly.'
Ice is Nice
The water temp was a cool 0.2C – but that did not deter the 1,250 hardy souls who took the plunge for the Winter Swimming World Championships in Rovaniemi, Finland.
'The Winter Swimming World Championships have been held every two years since 2000. They started in Finland, the traditional home of winter swimming, then moved to other locations including London (Tooting Bec Lido) in 2008, Lake Bled (Slovenia) in 2010 and Riga, Latvia, in 2012 before returning to Finland this year. Just under 1,250 swimmers registered for a range of fiercely competitive individual races, relays, fun swims and displays celebrating all aspects of cold water swimming.
'The UK contingent was mostly drawn from the SLSC (South London Swimming Club), with around 60 swimmers and supporters, plus there were swimmers from the Serpentine, Brockwell Icicles, Nemes Nutters and more
‘The starting sequence is not “Take your marks” but a sinister “Take off your clothes”. The remaining layers are shed and the wind blows wickedly.’
When Adam Baker became head coach of Swim Swansea, the club was struggling both in and out of the pool. Today it’s flourishing. Cath Harris finds out how the transformation was achieved
‘I changed everything,’ Adam says, as he nears the end of his first eight-year plan. ‘Everything that was here before was the complete opposite of what I wanted.’ While Adam’s changes caused upheaval and his unwillingness to compromise prompted significant numbers of swimmers to leave, those who stayed are reaping dividends.
Its swimmers are content and their parents more willing to accept squad movement, even if their offspring are switched sideways rather than up. The first years were painful, though, and it has taken time to put Swansea on a stable and confident footing.
Fun combined with elite performance is central to the City of Swansea Aquatic Club which incorporates Swim Swansea, Stingrays disability swimming, masters, diving, synchro and water polo clubs, all of which Adam oversees.
Adam is interested in masterminding Swim Swansea’s next eight years of progress. ‘The club was in a mess when I came but had huge potential. I haven’t finished what I want to do here and I plan being here a lot longer.’
Charlotte Leslie, Conservative MP for Bristol North West, talks about her background as a national age group finalist, her support for the right of clubs to teach swimming and how she became Backbencher of the Year
‘I can’t remember not being able to swim but I started swimming competitively when I was about six. I joined Thornbury SC in south Gloucestershire, and my club soon became very much part of my identity. I had some great friends there.
‘Despite all the training, it eventually became clear I wasn’t going to make it to where I wanted to be – a top international. A bout of glandular fever had taken its toll, puberty hit and I didn’t grow as much as some of my peers, and I still maintain my feet are just too small!
‘Last year, I got involved in helping clubs in Bristol, when the city council was trying to shut down the clubs’ ability to teach children to swim. The council said that only their leisure services provider, SLM, could deliver learn-to-swim, despite the fact that some of the city’s clubs ran very successful and much-loved lessons. It was absurd. Their attitude towards the clubs was appalling. We had talks with the local ASA, the clubs and the council and it was with much pride that I was able to help the clubs, and the council finally backed down.’
The Jersey Girls
One small island, one swimming club, two superwomen in the world of open water and marathon swimming. Last year, two members of Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club attempted to swim the English Channel two-ways non-stop. One did it. The other set a remarkable record for lifetime achievement. Kevin Murphy learns more from Sally Minty-Gravett and Wendy Trehiou.
Wendy Trehiou felt cheated. She had just swum the Channel in 13 hours 36 minutes instead of the 18 hours she had been expecting. Wendy had dreamed of swimming the Channel since she was seven years old, when she saw a newspaper story about two other girls from her home island of Jersey who had done it. ‘I said to my mum and dad: “I want to do that one day.”
Later this year, Sally has plans to swim four lakes in Arizona in four days – a total of 38 miles. Another two-way Channel attempt is booked for 2015 and she has her name down with four Channel swim pilots if a slot becomes available this year: ‘I will be the oldest swimmer to do a two-way Channel. I am absolutely certain that I will do it. I am going to do it for me and for my dad, who helped train me and was my guiding light in my early days.’
Exclusive interview with para-swimmer Steph Slater as she sets a new World Record and qualifies for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer
Steph's focus on the British Para-Swimming International Championships over Easter paid off with a new World Record and Commonwealth qualifying time. However, four years ago she was preparing for the Delhi Commonwealth Games as an able-bodied swimmer.
In a routine training session at Swansea, Stephanie developed severe pain and weakness in her left arm, which meant that she could no longer pull her arm through the water. She didn’t realise it at the time but it was the end of her Olympic dream. Instead of making the GB team and preparing for London, she spent the next 18 months undergoing a barrage of medical tests as doctors struggled to diagnose her condition.
Encouraged by her coach at Preston SC, Steve Heaps, she applied to be classified as a disability swimmer. Stephanie had to compete in January  at the Northern Zonal Meet to get times for the big events that were to follow. In Leeds at the British Gas International in March, she got the first inkling that her new dream of representing GB at a major international competition was still within her reach.
‘When I first got classified, I told myself I could go to a Paralympic Games. I thought if I could get myself fit, I could get to that high level. I was determined to get back to the level I was at,’
Stephanie says the focus in the last 12 months was regaining her fitness, so she’s confident that she can go faster with improvements in her fitness and technique. Despite the work ahead and the expectations of her, Slater is clearly still enjoying being back in the pool, doing what she loves.
Striving for Success
A rapid rise in the number of athletes making national events underlines the spectacular progress of City of Leeds Synchro Club under the leadership of their young coach Sarah Speers
The City of Leeds Synchronised Swimming Club was founded in 2008 by Fiona Blackstone and Ian Watson (both still heavily involved) because there was a need for the top swimmers from all local synchro clubs to train more and compete in the team events at the national competitions. Current coach Sarah Speers was fortunate to be one of the first athletes in the programme but there was very little team training due to the small number of members.
After retiring from the sport at the age of 22, Sarah was appointed as the full-time development coach in Leeds in 2011. Then in 2012, the Leeds City Council Synchronised Swimming Training Scheme was launched in partnership with the ASA, City of Leeds Synchronised Swimming Club and Pudsey Pearls.
Sarah’s long-term goal is for athletes to master the correct technique for the skill levels by the age of 10. She believes that once the foundations are in place, they will be able to achieve much greater success, particularly at international level.