Swim England Artistic Swimming

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British artistic swimming looking to ‘make a statement’ after historic season

It’s been a season of historic moments for British artistic swimming with the nation winning their first European Games medals, first World Championships medal and a first European medal in a duet for 30 years.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Duet of Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe won European Games bronze back in June with Shortman adding to that with Free Solo bronze to claim Britain’s first World medal in Japan.

Whilst the Mixed Duet of Ranjuo Tomblin and Beatrice Crass added even more success, hitting the podium twice at the Games in Poland with bronze in both the Free and Technical Mixed Duet events.

Across the programme there have been a number of impressive performances and a delighted Karen Thorpe, Swim England Artistic Swimming manager, has reflected on the season for the nation’s senior, junior and youth squads.

She said: “I’m really delighted with the season; it couldn’t have gone much better with the new rules. The World Cup was the first medal we have achieved on the world stage in the Free Duet and that set us off well heading into the European Games.

“For the Duet the Games were the first qualification event for the Olympics so we wanted to be competitive and go out there with that in mind.

“That obviously served us well when we won a bronze in the Free, meaning that going into the World Championships we were really excited to have the opportunity to get a medal which Kate did in the Free Solo, swimming absolutely brilliantly.

“Those two are the Olympic events for the Duet which stands us in good stead for next year. With these new rules it really is anyone’s game which makes the sport really exciting.

“The Mixed Duet have had an incredible year – especially with their two bronze medals at the European Games and two fifth places at the World Championships. Ranjuo also finished fifth in the world twice in his solo, which is fantastic!

“They continued their form at the Europeans Juniors with a silver in the Free Duet and Ranjuo winning bronze in the Tech Solo.

“They’ve recently been awarded the World Aquatics Scholarship which will be used to help them develop and will see them compete at the World Championships in Doha next year too.

“We’re always looking for more funding so our athletes and future athletes can have more opportunities which will make them become even better.

“Our team have also progressed really well this year, particularly in the Free Team event where we were tenth in the world in the Free Team final.

“It’s just been a brilliant season for the seniors and the juniors. The Youth squad have just returned from a good week at the Youth World Championships too, after a haul of medals at the Primorje Cup in Croatia.”

Raising the profile of the sport

The success of duet Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe in qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics saw a boost in participation numbers for the sport, and Karen hopes that the recent international success can encourage more youngsters to get involved.

“The results that we’ve achieved this year will allow us to help raise the profile of the sport.

“We have already attracted a lot more news worthy articles from our success and our athletes are great role models for young people, not just artistic swimmers but all athletes.

“They work hard, they work diligently and that’s all the athletes on our programme. They give up so much of their lives to come and train to be a part of it.

“We hope that we can bring more males into the sport with the success of Ranjou and Maxwell (Sewell) and that the results inspire youngsters to get involved in the first place.

“The staff running the world class programme in Bristol are doing an incredible job to make a lot of things happen.

“A lot of us are doing more than one job because we believe wholeheartedly in the athletes that sit within our programme and we want to give them the very best opportunity.

“Our athletes are training full time whilst in education and don’t have access to any additional funding so we’re doing everything we can to help them be successful.

“We don’t want artistic swimming to fall through the cracks and doing everything we can to continue proving that we can compete at the top level and win even more medals.

“Hopefully the international success we have had so far filters down to our clubs who can use it to help drive up participation numbers across the country and that they can utilise our athletes to help spread the effect of the world class programme.”

‘They are fixed on getting an Olympic medal’

Heading into an Olympic year and the qualification event on the horizon, Karen says that British artistic swimming wants to ‘make a statement’ throughout the next 12 months.

“For us as a national programme. We’ve come back from the season and had a look at what we want to achieve.

“I always had a strong feeling that we could be in the mix with this new scoring system because I know that all our athletes, particularly Kate and Izzy, are so technically talented.

“The duet are on a great trajectory going forwards and we’ve got a strategy up our sleeve that we hope is going to come off in Doha for the World Championships and the Olympic Qualification event.

“With that strategy I think we’re in a good position and both of them are absolutely fixed on getting an Olympic medal.

“Every day when they get in the pool, that is their motto and that is what they’re gunning for so we really want to make a statement over the next 12 months.

“The Mixed Duet will be in Doha too and our long term aim after that is to qualify a team for the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 2028 and we believe we can do that.”

“We’re in a good place. We have a full pipeline behind the Duet and Mixed Duet with a full senior team at the High Performance Centre in Bristol. We’ve got a full junior programme that went to the Junior Europeans this year and a full Youth programme where the Duets have just competed at the Youth World Championships.

“Next season we’re looking to attend the European and World Championships for the Youth and Juniors respectively and of course for the seniors there’s the European Championships and the World Cup events as well.

“We’re extremely proud of all of them, they’ve got there through hard work and we love working with them. Next season could be a really special year.”