Friday, August 31, 2018

Year of Young People 2018: Archie Goodburn

Each month in 2018, to celebrate the Year of Young People in conjunction with the Scottish Government and Young Scot, Scottish Swimming is profiling an outstanding athlete or volunteer from the world of aquatics. Check out our previous features: Toni ShawCameron BrodieDominique ZahraLucas Thomson and Kayleigh Haggo.

Trying to facilitate an interview with Archie Goodburn is like trying to solve a chemical equation at the same time as attempting a rubix cube blindfolded, using your left foot only, whilst simultaneously whistling the theme tune Match of the Day.

This is no fault of his own, or that of his ever-supportive family, it’s just that the Warrender Baths Club swimmer has had such a busy year in and out of the pool that he rarely has the time to discuss his life – he just lives it.

Goodburn has competed at Scottish, British and European level in 2018, interspersed with the pressure of exams as the university chapter beckons. The pressure certainly hasn’t had an impact on his performance in the pool, where he has been an unstoppable force during Scottish National Championships this season. He’s began to make an impact at British senior level too and on the continent, he tasted European Junior success as part of the British team that travelled to Helsinki in June.

It’s not long after he’s returned from the most recent of these major meets, the British Summer Championships, that we finally get the chance to talk. We recap his medal count from Sheffield: six medals in total including three golds, a silver and two bronzes (plus a new British Record). That followed on from 4x100m mixed medley silver in Helsinki, and three finals appearances.

“For me it was all about improving on what I’d learned in Helsinki,” Goodburn begins, summing up his approach to the end of season Summer Championships. “I worked on a couple of things in training, brought them into the race and ended up swimming faster because of it, and that was my main goal. That allowed me to break the records and win the medals, which is what I want.”

When conversing with Goodburn, the first thing you realise is that he gives off a vibe that he just ‘gets it’. All top athletes exude this particular type of quality in the way they talk. It’s effervescent to any naked eye yet no one has quite ever been able to give it a name other than some sort of X Factor. It’s a natural formula of belief and humility, arrogance and confidence. Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James, Serena Williams: they all have it, and Goodburn does too. Can he reach their elite level? Who knows. But he has their mindset.

And that mindset has been present in him for a while. Casting his mind back to the young boy who’d just learned to swim, Goodburn said: “I’ve always thought I wanted to make my life special in some sort of way. As a younger swimmer I would watch the older guys and I would think about how amazing it would be to represent my country one day.

“As I started coming through the club ranks I’d set myself one goal, aim to hit that within a couple of weeks, and then set another. And that’s how my swimming has progressed. I take each day step-by-step to move towards that original final goal.” One of Goodburn’s earliest swimming memories is when he competed at the Scottish Schools Championship for the first time, at 11-years-old, and broke the 50m Scottish Age Group Record. He remembers looking up at his family and for the first time, thinking that swimming could be his path to a special life. Fast forward to 2016, after X years of commitment, and he won seven medals at the British Summer Championships, and that faith was repaid.

The 17-year-old not only talks the talk, he walks the walk. His numerous Age Group Records this season prove that. At Short Course in December, anyone within the Royal Commonwealth Pool would’ve been forgiven for thinking the commentators were broken records “And another Age Group Record for Archie Goodburn!” they would proclaim, time and time again.

Goodburn specialises in the breaststroke but is more than adept on the butterfly and freestyle, emphasised by his medals and records in these events at various levels. He’s constantly pushed in all of these by his coaches and teammates at Warrender, who by their own admission set out to “Build champions”.

Goodburn said the environment within the club: “It’s definitely something that spurs you on when you have teammates all around you who are succeeding. And we’ve got a great group of coaches who motivate us and know a lot about the sport and are really good for advice.

“We’ve also had a few top performing athletes come through the club so it’s quite nice to try and follow in their footsteps.”

Outside of Warrender, Goodburn draws inspiration from Adam Peaty, who has “done so much for breaststroke,” and follows a similar training regime to newly crowned European 100m freestyle champion, Duncan Scott. He’s similarly ambitious to both as well, and has his sights firmly set on making an impact at the World Junior Championships next year. "I'm really looking forward to it, it'd be a dream to be successful there," he says. But first of all his focus is on the Short Course season, where he'll look to repeat his success form last year.

Of course, these aspects of Goodburn’s life make for good newspaper articles and social media coverage, but aren’t the parts that will set him up for the rest of his life. Success at national and international meets, flag bearing duties at Youth Olympics, and the rigorous training schedule, are all well and good but one day they’ll come to an end. He knows that his achievements so far wouldn’t have been possible without his school, Stewart’s Melville College in Edinburgh and admits he’s been fortunate in that they have always backed him and encouraged him in his extra-curricular activities.

“They’re extremely supportive of my swimming and allow me time out whenever I need it. That’s one of the great things for me about Stewart’s Melville, and it means I can get to training sessions and other places where I need to be for competitions, and if different times need to be arranged they’ve been flexible and helpful.”

And in return for their support, Goodburn will be offering his services to the school as a Depute Head Boy next year. Such a prestigious role obviously comes with its responsibilities, but Goodburn has the qualities within himself to be a fine example to the rest of the school. He said: “I’m looking forward to giving something back to the school after all they’ve given me in support over my journey.”

Goodburn has plans to move on and study at the University of Bath or Loughborough University after his tenure at Stewart’s Melville is up this time next year. His ambition is to study Natural Sciences, a combination of biology, chemistry and physics, with elements of mathematics and geology.

Maybe Goodburn will be able to use that degree to solve the equation of the X Factor in elite athletes. And maybe, just maybe, by then he will have already realised his athletic potential and be able to look back on the elite achievements that match his elite mindset.