Welcome to Swansea

Visited delightful south Wales this past weekend, attending a swimming competition, just for a change. As if the storm last weekend wasn’t enough, we had to have another, driving through torrential downpours and gale-force winds is becoming my ‘thing’.

The competition was a warm-up for the Regional Championships, being swum in a long course pool, to the uninitiated this means a 50 metre pool rather than the short course 25m pool. As there are fewer turns in long course racing it is harder, and if it hasn’t been trained for it can be a shock to the system. My little angel has swum most of her races in short course, her last long course meet was at the London Aquatic centre in June last year, so with regionals approaching, some long course was needed.

All the way there (4 hours drive), I told her repeatedly that she was going there to get some 50m pool time and not to beat everyone. I really did say that. I love to see her swim, her awesome power makes people smile. The parents at her swimming club keep telling me how much they enjoy watching her compete. Swimming charisma is what I call it, but it wouldn’t matter what Tigerlily does, she compels people to watch.

Tigerlily has exuberance and confidence in bucketloads, she couldn’t wait to get in the pool and show it that she had no fear of it’s 50m menace. The first event was the crushing 200m butterfly. She showed it no respect. Diving in and leading the field of fifteen-year olds up the first length, she looked like she could swim all day. Her stroke was relaxed and easy, she made the technically difficult butterfly look like her bitch. However, her eleven-year old’s lack of experience started to tell in the third 50m length and she dropped out after 150m of the race.

I was officiating at the other end of the pool and could only look on as she was assisted out of the pool at the end of the race. Following my stern telling-off after what happened at the county champs, I forced myself to stay at my station. I reasoned that we both needed to allow the pool staff and the swimming club helpers to do their thing, so I showed restraint. Of course, she was fine after a while although her coach advised her not to swim her next event, but that error of judgement cast a shadow over the rest of the day and Tigerlily undeperformed in all her swims.

The competition was held at the Wales National Pool, a fine venue with great facilities albeit in Swansea, and home to Swansea Aquatics who were hosting the meet. I wouldn’t be doing justice to any report of the weekend if I failed to mention the catering that the club laid on for us officials. It was a magnificent spread consisting of many varieties of salads, meats, little pasties, pies, chicken wings, and assorted goodies. To put this in perspective I should say that the usual fare laid on by swimming clubs is trays of sandwiches from Costco and other places, which, although not bad, are not really good enough to say thanks for giving up long hours of ones life. Thank you Swansea Aquatics for your superb hospitality. On the second day of the competition I went in, filled up a plate with two of everything, and invited Tigerlily to join me for a picnic. As a gourmand of experience well beyond her tender years she pronounced the spread excellent.

I’m saving the best bit for last. One of the events on the second day of the competition was the 50m butterfly. Tigerlily has always been a natural at butterfly and with her powerful style she can do the 50m event long course really well because there are no turns to distract her. As if to make up for the debacle of the 200m fly the day before she gave it her all, a lightning fast start timed to perfection, a dolphin-like underwater phase followed by a breakout like a torpedo homing in on its target, she powered up the pool swimming the perfect race. Her time was one second faster than her entry time, which, over 50m is a big sliver to shave off, but the best bit, it was fast enough to qualify her for the National Championships. Effectively, she is a year too young with the youngest age being thirteen at end of year, but twelve-year olds can get in if they’re fast enough. So Tigger is going national!

Nationals will bring her to the attention of the high-ups who choose kids for special attention, the ones that are worth investing in. This could be the next step towards her dream of Team GB, and The Olympics in 2028.

Watch this space!

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