Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Suan Liddle's Dublin Diary: Final Thoughts

During the 2016 Rio Paralympics, Susan Liddle, who volunteers with Scottish Swimming, provided a brilliant daily blog for us, detailing her experiences as a Technical Official at the Games. And we're delighted to announce that for the World Para Swimming European Championships in Dublin, Susan will be doing the same again with her Dublin Diary!

Day 5

Saturday sees us with the longest day of the whole week for events. 

During Para meets one of the officials duties whether an ITO or an NTO is that we have to act as warm up marshals on the main and swim down pools and today was my day (Oh I got lucky lol!)

This is not just standing or sitting on poolside overseeing the swimmers with a whistle - that's the job of the lifeguards.  

We need to, due to the wide spread of disabilities ensure that the lanes allocated to the classifications are adhered to as it can put swimmers in a lot of danger if not.

We also need to make sure that basic swimmer equipment like snorkels, fins and hand paddles are not used in the 50 metre pool and only in the designated lanes in the swim down pool.  This is due to the sensitivity of the expensive touchpads (those yellow things people now take for granted) when they are in place.  Now we know that swimmers need to use these but they dont realise the cost implications that even minor damage can incur.

The majority of teams abide by this and understand when we point it out to them and in actual fact most coaches will bring things to our attention if they feel its being missed as will the swimmers.

Doing this job also gave me the opportunity to chat to the coaches in a relaxed manner and it was really good to catch up with a lot of them as I hadn't seen them in a while. 

It is a long stint as the warm ups (as you do both morning and afternoons) are each one and three quarter hours long, so that as well as a the sessions to officate is quite intense.

The food supplied for volunteers and officials that had to stay on site was actually very good and plentiful - it ranged from sandwiches and fruit to noodle dishes and curries with plenty of green stuff also (salad!)

Day 6

Woke up before the alarm today just like other days - that's what happens when you are used to long meets your body gets conditioned to the early time slot so the alarm is actually your back up.

Right! Up, shower, pack kit bag and down for brekkie with the gang and then out to the bus for a bit of banter with the driver - the transport staff are amazing and funny - got to know them quite well over the seven days and they were so helpful. They initially stuck rigidly to their schedules haha! That soon changed as the Scots won them over!  

We may have been coming here for seven days but the volunteer staff who we have gotten to know well do not let us in if we do not show our accreditation - well done you! 

Seven days is a very long time for a meet never mind the added pressures of being a European meet which is being televised with the extra protocols that you need to deal with and at times it feels like it is going on forever.  

Half way through the morning session though I stood up and walked forward to check the turn of a swimmer and it suddenly hit me quite hard that this was the last day and it now felt like I had only just arrived.  

In some ways you are in a bubble at these events where days and sessions merge into each other and the length of time seems endless and yet when you realise its almost over it is like it has happened in a blink of an eye.

Final Thoughts

Well the swimming and the event is over but I thought I would do a round up of the World Para European Championships for you.

I have said previously that seven days at a meet is a very long time and it is.  

You are working, travelling, eating and socialising with the others involved at very close quarters and in all relationships no matter how well or not so well you know each other you can get on each others nerves.

I won't lie and sugar coat things as people who know me know thats not my way - we did have the odd difference of opinion but that's only to be expected when you are together in a group almost 24/7 - never ever got in the way of the job at hand though and it also never lasted very long as we are all well used to these things and know it's just letting off steam as the pressures can be immense.

At the finish of the meet and closing ceremony we found the GB team and I ended up with a group hug - cheesin!

Also found Scott Quin who I got photos taken with and we of the naughty squad (would you expect me to be anywhere else?) got a huge cheer as we ran past the Italians who were getting a group photo taken when we realised we should have been at de-brief - it's fine! Don't panic! We made it on time ..... just!

One story I need to tell before I give you my memorable moments is Andrew Mullen's escapade with his wheelchair - he forgot to put the brake on the chair and watched it disappear into the depths of the diving pit. OMG! You say how on earth do you get  a wheelchair out which is now five metres down in water????? Hey you're Andrew Mullen! So what do you do? You dive in and down, grab the chair and fly kick it back up to the surface .....legend in his own lifetime!!!!!!

There are always highs and lows at any meet and a lengthy one like this throws up many.

I have lots of highlights of which I will share three which stick in my head the most:

1.  Not at the beginning but as the meet progressed when the Ukranians were racking up the medals (106 overall of various colours) when their anthem was being played you would hear them singing quietly in the stands - it reminded me of 'Hunt for Red October' and gave me goosebumps - it was seriously moving.

2.  When Ellen Keane won her gold medal the noise from her support was absolutely deafening and lasted an age - quite rightly too..... excellent swim and yet again a goosebumps moment at the pride that was almost touchable in the arena.

3.   The Call Room is a place of intensity and stresses especially in Para call rooms as closing times are adhered to rigidly to the second and there were actually a few swimmers who missed their calling. The Call room was manned by young officials from Wales and the UK overseen by a very experienced UK Referee - they worked like a dream and great credit should be given to these unseen youngsters.

There are many more but don't want to bore you.

Immense credit should be given to each and everyone of the vounteers whether in green, blue, dark blue and those who helped put the meet together - they all gave up their time willingly and had taken time off from work to all come together to make the event the success it was.  

Many people think we are paid to officiate at these events - quite the contrary it in fact costs us to be their whether its paying for our flights to get there or having to  give up our precious annual holiday leave to be there ----- I for one would not have it any other way.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings - take care all.