Friday, June 16, 2017

Hope and glory on opening day of British Masters Championships

The British Masters and Senior Age Group Championships began today at the Aquatics Centre in Aberdeen, hosted by Scottish Swimming with support from Aberdeen Sports Village and Aberdeen City Council. The three-day event has attracted over 530 athletes over 2500 events and provides some highly competitive racing mixed in with the Masters ethos of ‘fun, fitness and friendship’.

Celebrations began early when Sophie Casson of Carnforth Otters broke the 1500m freestyle world record (30-34yrs). Casson’s time of 17:20.55 broke the previous record, set in 2009, by a whopping five seconds. In the same event, Masters legend, Jane Asher, posted an impressive 28:22.18 in the 85-89 years age category.

A familiar face to Scottish Swimming stepped out from behind the camera to compete in the 100m backstroke. Nick Hope, who is part of BBC Sport’s Olympic and Paralympic broadcast team, has been using swimming as part of his rehabilitation from a serious skiing accident from January of last year. It has clearly been going well as he won gold in the event for the 30-34 years age category in a life time best of 1:05.38. Turning the table on him he spoke to us after his day’s racing was done. He said,

"Winning my first British Masters title is just the best feeling in the world!  When I just touched to win the penultimate heat, from lane 9, I was really made up because I thought I had the silver and that was a great start to the meet. I didn’t even look at the results from the final heat – with the quickest ranked swimmer – as I was still recovering and assumed he and all the ‘finalists’ would go quicker.

“It was only about 20 minutes later, after I’d swum down, that I checked my phone and a friend had screen-grabbed the official results from the website. It was a slightly odd way to learn I’d won, but still amazing!”

With his busy schedule in broadcasting, we asked about his access to training; Hope continued,

“Back at the end of 2014 I weighed about three stone more than I currently do and returning to swimming was a massive part of getting back in shape. However, I travel an awful lot with work which does really impact my training routine. During the last six months alone I’ve covered Olympic and Paralympic related sports events in Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland, the Bahamas, Thailand, Tokyo and of course across the UK. Obviously pool access isn’t easy everywhere in the world, so I’ve had to massively supplement my swimming with gym workouts, basic yoga and made a real effort to control my diet.”

A title and a massive PB is always worth celebrating, but this is particularly significant to Hope, who only 18 months ago was told he may not walk again, following a skiing accident. He continues,

“After breaking my hip and femur in a high-impact crash whilst trying out ski-cross in France last year, Drs and consultants had doubts about whether I’d be ever able to walk again let alone swim quickly. But I was determined to not only get back to full health, but be faster than ever. The pain of the injury and the rehabilitation work was off the chart if I’m honest and it’s been really difficult learning how to adapt my technique in the pool to ensure the metalwork in my leg doesn’t impact my performance. It has made me even more focused and determined than I have ever been. It’s taken a lot of dedication and social sacrifices over the last 18 months to get to this stage, but setting a lifetime personal best in my favourite event means everything to me.”

Hope will be back in action hoping for more success in the backstroke events.

A full round up of major records broken will be recorded after the event.

Full results from today’s action can be found HERE

The British Masters and Senior Age Group Championships run from 16-19 June; the event programme can be found HERE

The event hashtag to follow the action on social media is #BritMasters2017.