Monday, April 16, 2018

Reflections from Gold Coast with National Squad Coach Alan Lynn

"It would be fair to say we're delighted. Not just because of the medals, which is obviously fantastic, but for the number of finalists we had in swimming, which was superb and testimony of how people performed." Alan Lynn, National Coach

The curtain has closed on the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and while the Team start their long journey home we caught up with National Coach and Aquatics Team Leader, Alan Lynn, and asked him his thoughts on the Aquatics Team and its performance.

“Overall it would be fair to say that we’re delighted,” he began. “Not just because of the medals, which is obviously fantastic, but for the number of finalists we had in swimming, which was superb and testimony of how people performed. Swimming heats and semis, the density of those performances across the team is really pleasing.

“The medals of course are the icing on the cake and they are fantastic at individual and collective level. Team wise we broke records in the relays and to win a medal in the men’s 4x100m freestyle, which we’ve never won before, shows the strength and depth of male swimming in Scotland. All of those things suggest we’ve had pretty successful Games.”

And while not all the team made it to the podium, Lynn emphasised the bigger picture, and spoke of the level of conversions athletes made from heats to finals.

“The number of finalists is an important marker because it speaks to the spread; it speaks to the depth of the team. For us the spread across the team, both male and female, young and more experienced, is promising because it means we can do well across the board.

“To have three finals where we had three Scots competing (Women’s 50m backstroke, Men’s 100m breaststroke and Men’s 200m IM) is remarkable given the size of the country, the population and the fact we were up against, in some cases, the might of world swimming, let alone Commonwealth swimming. All those are very pleasing factors that speak to the depth and the quality across Scottish swimming and the fact that so many of the team are living and training in Scotland is also a strong reflection on the quality of programme and coaching we have in Scotland.”

For many of the athletes, their plane journey thoughts will be on preparation for the Glasgow 2018 European Championships. At the end of the swimming competition of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, British Swimming announced a squad of 43 athletes, 11 of whom are Scots. Lynn said that the significant contribution from Scotland to the British squad is further evidence of the strength of Scottish swimming.

He said: “Out of a [Commonwealth Games] squad of 29, 23 swimmers were eligible for selection to Glasgow 2018 and to have 11 selected for it is remarkable.  That’s great for us for the summer as it’s in Glasgow and there will be lots of Scots involved, but it will also be great for the future because several of them are very promising and this Games was by no means their swan song so it’s terrific.  

“Preparation for Glasgow has already begun by way of a mini camp here, which shows the level of commitment expected to swim at that level. I am especially pleased for those swimmers getting their first British cap.”

Lynn said that the level of support the aquatics team showed for each other was a particularly pleasing spectacle, and for much of the competition this was noted in the venue commentary, the media and through broadcast.

Lynn said: “The athletes must take full credit for how they have held themselves in the run up to and during the Games. They led a session on values and behaviours at the Gathering back in December and they have lived and acted out those values in everything they’ve done here. We talked about ten one day meets, six for swimming and four for diving and we reminded them of that every day as we rounded up one day and prepared for the next.

“One of our hashtags was #WhyNotToday and that was something they took very much to heart in terms of their own performances and supporting each other. To have so many of them supporting at diving was immense. We had four divers in the team who were very supporting of all the swimmers. But four divers doesn’t make a big presence whereas almost all our swimmers were at diving most nights, picked up by the organisers and venue,  picked up by the other swimming teams who then felt obliged to send their own swimmers because of peer pressure.”

Alongside the athletes and coaches, a number of experts from the support services of sportscotland have also supported the Aquatics Squad and Lynn was quick to recognise them.

“I’ve been saying for some time that we are fantastically well off with the quality of support staff we have,” he said. “We’ve worked hard over the past few years to develop that strong support team and understand how each other works so when we come to a Games we can test out the systems we’ve created and absolutely nothing cracked here. Whether it was the prep area beside the warm up pool or someone having a quiet word the support staff has bought into what we wanted to achieve and that’s been excellent.

“Every team, whether rugby sevens or basketball, has someone who performs well for it. We are not a team sport so when someone does well, score a goal or win a medal, that’s something we all strive to do. On this occasion it was Duncan Scott. He’s a very accomplished young man and a very humble young man and he is very clear in his goals but he would be the first to recognise that the people who he trains with, the people he’s been with on the team here are all very much part of his success. We absolutely value what he’s achieved but we want a whole team of Duncan Scotts and that’s the challenge as we move forward.”

And there was also success in the diving pool in Gold Coast. The first highlight was a bronze medal for James Heatly, Scotland’s first diving medal since 1958, which was won by none other than James’ grandfather Sir Peter Heatly. And then Grace Reid went on to win an amazing gold medal, the first medal ever by a Scottish female diver. For Gemma McArthur and Lucas Thomson, who both competed at their first Commonwealth Games, made the finals of each event they entered.

So as we wrap things up from the Gold Coast, we turn our attention to the big gala that will be Tokyo 2020. The Olympics come up on us very quickly after a Commonwealth Games. For our dozen or so athletes who think they have a chance of making the Olympic team after this meet, there’s probably another dozen even couple of dozen beyond that group who aspire to do the same. We need to take care of them as we always do in terms of support in their clubs and in their programmes to ensure they have daily training environments and daily coaching all the sport science and medicine to help achieve their goals. And then as soon as Tokyo is over, whatever that means to us we’ll be turning our attention to Birmingham, another Home Games.

There will be young swimmers in stroke camps next weekend who would love to emulate Hannah Miley and Duncan Scott when it comes to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. When we look at what happens on the world stage in for example a 400m IM, a female swimmer at the Olympic Games has an average age of 20. That means that athletes who at this moment are age groupers in clubs, if they carry on doing the right things maybe they can make a Commonwealth Games.

It’s important to recognise that major international meets aren’t just about elite senior swimmers; their journey is something they embark on early. There have been lessons to learn over the last ten days, and putting that learning into practice going forward is an important part of what we try to do. Duncan Scott swam relays in Glasgow and he leaves Australia having won six medals and taking the title of Scotland’s most successful athlete at a single Games.

There will be young athletes who just missed out on making this team who will be determined to make it to Birmingham and there will be young teenage kids who don’t know it yet but who will be on the team in Birmingham if they keep working hard and doing the right things every day.

For more reaction, head to our Soundcloud page to hear from Performance Director Ally Whike, and Diving Coach Jen Leeming, on the success in Australia:

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