Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Successful meet for Scots in Ontario

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Scottish swimmers returned from Canada with 11 individual medals from the Ontario Junior International Meet, alongside a very pleased National Coach in Alan Lynn.

Of perhaps even greater significance was the number of records broken over the course of the three days, including British Junior Records for Archie Goodburn in the 100m breaststroke (59.91) and Scott Gibson in the 50m backstroke (24.88).

Lynn was full of praise for the swimmers performances, particularly given the challenge set to them of swimming "two sets of finals" as he put it.

"Because we know what's coming up in the Olympics in 2020 we said the morning heats would be Tokyo finals, so no slacking off in the heats, and the evening sessions were Ontario Finals," said Lynn.

"It was really obvious that our swimmers were going really strong in the heats whereas some of the others didn't quite go all guns blazing in the morning so it was really good for our guys to test themselves out in the morning and then go and back it up in the evening, as that's what they'd have to do at senior level anyway.

"Barring a couple of sluggish swims on the Sunday morning the guys all swam really well adapted well."

The Scottish contingent consisted of Archie Goodburn, Cassie Wild , Katie Robertson, Katie Shanahan, Scott Gibson and Sophie Smith.

As Goodburn enters a pivotal year in his development, Lynn said he did all he could to end 2018 on a high.

“When you’re a young man making your way in swimming it’s tough because men’s events are so competitive and breaststroke is one of those in particular in the UK with Adam Peaty at the top alongside our own Ross Murdoch and Craig Benson among others.

“For Archie to break the minute in the 100 was a real milestone. For people like Archie we see a two-year transition window from junior to senior level, and he’s just approaching that point now where he’ll leave school and decide where he wants to be as he enters senior swimming.

“Hopefully he can take all of that positivity into 2019 and his last year as a junior.”

Goodburn's breaststroke companion Katie Robertson picked up multiple Scottish titles at the National Short Course Championships but came into this meet with different goals.

Lynn said: "Katie’s going through the same sort of transition as Archie, she’s had a cracking couple of years.

She backed up her performances at our Short Course Championships the weekend before with some very good swims in the breaststroke here, especially up against the other Brits."

14-year-old Katie Shanahan was one of the youngest swimmers at the meet and while it's still early in her development, Lynn said her swims and her conduct showed positive signs for the future.

He said: “Our motto has always been that if you’re fast enough you’re old enough and although she’s swimming times that many senior swimmers would be happy with, we still have to remember she is only a 14-year-old girl.

“So from a psycho-social point of view we’ve got to be mindful that she’s a young girl and swimming has to be something that she does because she loves it, and there’s no-one happier or more positive about what she does than Katie Shanahan.

“She always has a smile on her face all the time and takes everything in her stride. She keeps her feet firmly on the ground and that’s the mark of someone with their head screwed on.

“She’s being extremely well managed and coached by Ian Wright and Danielle Brayson. They haven’t got too far ahead. She swims once a day no more and she also dances so I think that helps her both in and out of the pool.”

When asked about the importance of this meet as a whole for the British contingent, Lynn said: “This meet is in its tenth year and it’s one of the premier junior meets in the world, long or short course, and it attracts some of the best swimmers in the world.

“The meet records read like a who’s who of Olympic medals at senior level so it’s a good proving ground, it’s a really competitive environment and the meet is extremely well run. The Canadians are really relaxed hosts too.”

Lynn revealed he asked each of the swimmers before the first set of finals: “Do you feel like you belong here?” and they all answered with an enthusiastic yes.

On backstroker Scott Gibson, Lynn said: “Scott was one of those who really proved he belong because he backed up his seeding with some really good performances, personal bests and National Age Group Records.

“It is fair to say he’s a bit of a late bloomer, he’d only got into the Senior Silver Squad last year for the first time after having never been anywhere else. He went to Geneva last January and now finds himself competing in Canada and sitting exams in the same weekend which shows his commitment.”

For Sophie Smith this competition provided a chance to approach races differently from how she would domestically, Lynn said.

“The freestyle is tough for men and women across the world but especially tough fir females at this level with Freya Anderson swimming alongside you and I think for Sophie she was in the lane directly next to Freya in many of the swims so there was lots of learning for her.

“She swam her races a little differently in Canada compared to Short Course for example and learned from negative splitting her 400 to controlling her pace, from taking the lead-off in a couple of relay swims as well and she soaked it all up.

“But she also certainly proved her worth by being on the podium and swimming personal best times.”

Cassie Wild also travelled out to Canada but picked up a bug that prevented her from racing, though she was able to swim a leg in the relay on the final night. Lynn revealed however that Wild is recovering well and indeed managed the illness itself very well.

Reflecting on a successful three days of racing in Canada, Team Leader and British Swimming’s Head of Elite Development, Tim Jones said:

“Our athletes delivered a full set of positive performances, and were able to stamp a professional and composed level of authority on the meet.

“This type of high level racing opportunity enables us to expose areas that need further development and improvement, in particular, turns will be a focus heading into the 2019 long course season.

“I’m really pleased with how this group of athletes approached the competition, each demonstrating excellent team behaviours and represented their country in the best possible way.”