Monday, June 6, 2016

Swim Social Blog: Scott Gauld - My European Masters Experience

Swim Social Blog: Scott Gauld 

The European Masters Championships in London was always going to be an experience! Ahead of the event there had been a lot of concerns regarding the sheer volume of swimmers taking part. For me, I was fortunate with the way things lined up as I managed to avoid the crazy queues, nor was I denied warm ups like some others. I sympathise with those who had their experience impacted by the circumstances of the week as that is not what you envisage when you enter a competition of this calibre.

In my first blog I noted how well my preparation for this competition had gone, however in the week leading into the Championships much of this was lost due to illness and major changes to my own circumstances which meant I started a new role in London during the competition.  Despite these challenges to my swimming, I was looking forward to getting to the pool and getting familiar with the surroundings.

Once I was checked in to my accommodation and accredited it was great to get into the Aquatics Centre and get familiar with the surroundings of our home for the next week. The main pool was breath taking and so much bigger than pools I’d competed in before; however, I chose to take my warm-up swim in the low key pool 2 given that the majority of my swims were based here over the week.

My first event was the 200 IM and despite feeling utterly horrendous before and after my race I was happy to pull a PB out the bag. It was a strange feeling to be almost thinking what might have been despite taking 9 seconds off of my previous Long Course best, however I quickly came to terms with the fact that this was definitely a good result under the circumstances. Despite there being no spectators in Pool 2 I stayed on poolside following my race to cheer on a fellow Scot in the heat after mine, before we headed on over to the podium to see our respective team mates collect their medals. Day one was great for the Scottish contingent with medals in both the 200IM and 800m Free. Certainly within our own club I feel the success of our Day 1 swimmers really set a positive tone for the rest of the championships.

I had a couple of days to recover before my next trip to Queen Elizabeth Park, taking part in a relay. I really enjoy relay events and even though I still wasn’t feeling 100% and only being given a 10 minute warm up, my relay leg was another Long Course PB. You always seem to find a way to have good swims in the relay and for me on this occasion this was down to the relaxed nature of our team. We had a great time in the call room, it was packed with an electric atmosphere and we had a ball! Heading out onto poolside under the bright lights of the Olympic Pool and in front of packed spectator area was immense.  However, racing at 9pm without a swim down afterwards started my downwards trend as I really struggled to recuperate after a late finish on Friday. I returned to the Competition pool on Saturday having travelled to another local pool to try and get some life back into my muscles and I was a bit disappointed to swim slower in my individual 50m Fly than in the relay the night before. That afternoon was spent having a “cycle down” rather than a swim down around the Olympic Park. The Boris bike was up to the job and it was a great way to see the 2012 venues in the sunshine.

Our club had a relay on Saturday evening so we decided to head back to the apartment to chill out and watch the 100m and 400m freestyle events on the live feed. The video coverage provided for the event was excellent with similar camera views to those used in the elite event the week before. It also meant swimmers could watch their swims after they’d happened. My parents are not swimming super fans but they were glued to the coverage and it was great to know we were having that support from back home.

At 23:00 it was time to return to the Aquatics centre for the relay, dubbed the disco relay. Although I think my teammates were disappointed that there was no nightclub lighting going on for the disco relay, the atmosphere in the pool was fantastic despite the reduced crowd and eventually we saw our team put in a great swim coming in 6th overall at 00:37. Championships such as these are often made by the memories you share with your team mates and staying up until a daft o’clock to watch 200m of your team swimming was great fun.

After such a late night on Saturday I was feeling fairly sluggish on Sunday where I had the 100 Backstroke followed by the 50m backstroke. This was the day that I really felt the impact of the limited warm up on offer and I really struggled in the back end of my 100m Backstroke and then similarly the 2nd half of my 50m leg of our relay. The end of the relay meant it was time to have a bit of fun with a few beers on poolside while we cheered on our next relay. To add to the fun many of the team had their picture taken with the event mascot Ray the Ray.

The 2016 European Masters Championships will be remembered for many things, but I cannot remember attending an event where the swimmers were so appreciative of the officials. While the swimmers could come and go as necessary the officials were often on poolside late at night and then again early the next morning. The officials alongside the numerous volunteers who helped with the running of the event meant things were not as bad as we had feared. Although overall the conditions of the event were light years away from those we experienced in Eindhoven at the previous European Championships, hopefully lessons will be learned going forward and we do not see these circumstances again.

The swimming calendar doesn’t stand still and there is already a buzz for the next international masters event being held in Europe, the 2017 FINA World Masters Championships in Budapest. Closer to home the next Scottish event is the North District Masters Open Championships (entries opened on 4th June) and will be taking place in Inverness on 20th August 2016.


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