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Karen Thorpe reflects on year full of highlights for synchro stars

2018 was certainly a successful one for athletes in all our aquatic sports. In the third of a series of articles, we look back on those achievements and find out what 2019 has in store.

It’s fair to say that Karen Thorpe could not have envisaged how successful 2018 would be.

“What a year it has been,” said Karen, Swim England’s head of synchro. “The highlight was attending the Junior World Championships for the first time since 2012 and the results were the best Great Britain has ever seen at this level.

“We also competed in the Junior and Senior European Championships and we’re delighted to finish with new best scores across all the events we entered.”

Those impressive displays will inevitably lead to more pressure to deliver the same or even better performances in the future – but Karen and her team are relishing the opportunity.

Karen said: “This year, we had 40 athletes working through the levels on the Swim England Synchro Talent Programme, with 10 dedicated staff coaching and team managing.

“At the end of September, we held a new selection for senior and junior athletes and all those attending needed to pass a series of club tests to allow them to attend the trial.

“The younger squads started their journey for selection to the 2019 squads at the end of November at the National Age Group competition in Gloucester. The top performers were invited to attend the trial held the weekend after and were put through their paces with various tests before the season starts in January.

“We have a full-time national coach, Paola Basso, now and she will be working with the duet during the week and the team on weekends and during camps.

Sport growing in popularity

“Paola will also be on hand to help and deliver education to coaches to develop the workforce.”

The year ended on a high with the announcement that Artistic swimming is to receive a cash boost from the government’s £3m Aspiration fund.

Great Britain’s programme will receive a total of £192,500 from the fund, which was was announced in October by former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch to support Olympic and Paralympic sports that do not currently receive full UK Sport funding.

Karen added: “The athletes see this as a milestone towards qualifying for the Olympic Games, and are working hard to be ambassadors to the sport and to all young people training across country in various sports to achieve their dreams.”

And there are encouraging signs that synchronised swimming is also starting to grow in popularity.

“From January, there is considerable work going into the top and bottom of the athlete pathway,” said Karen. “A START Synchro programme and Talent Identification programme should help the numbers within the sport develop.

“The film, Swimming With Men, and fantastic synchro coverage from the Glasgow European Games has already started to see an injection of new recruits to clubs across the country.

“New university clubs have already started to spring up in 2018 and with the popularity of masters swimming ever increasing, this focus is set to continue and develop in 2019 and beyond.”