It’s been a busy few months recently and we’ve just finished our biggest competition this year – the World Championships. I competed in the team event at Barcelona Worlds two years ago but I knew this was going to be very different because I was swimming the duet! It meant I was quite nervous but also excited to be a part of it!
In preparation for the competition we went on a training camp in Spain to work with Andrea Fuentes. It was incredible to work with her, not only because she is a four-time Olympic medalist but because of her positivity and outlook on training. It was a tough week but we learned a lot about pushing ourselves to reach our max and also motivating ourselves to get the most out of our training. As Andrea was a part of the Spanish duet she had a lot of experience and she taught us a lot about connecting together to help us swim better together in the pool. It was a really enjoyable and valuable experience for both of us – hopefully one day we will go back!
After a bit of training in England we were ready to fly to Russia and show everyone the work we’d done. Before the competition started we had a couple of days for training. There were three different pools to train in – one being the competition pool. The venue was amazing! It was a converted football stadium that held two Olympic sized swimming pools. The competition pool had a roof put over it but the training pool was outdoors which was nice.
Our first event was the tech duet competition. I was a bit more nervous for this one because we had only swam it in competition twice before because we competed at junior age as well where we didn’t need tech routines. We’d done a lot of work on our tech elements so were hoping to show that when we competed. After the swim we were a bit disappointed because we didn’t get the scores we wanted, but it just pushed us to put everything in for free in a couple of days.
We were more pleased with the result from free but not just based on the scores, but how the swim felt as well. It felt like we put more energy in and swam better as a unit which is something we have really been working on. We watched a lot of the other countries after we’d finished competing to help us come up with things we felt we still needed to improve on!
On Thursday Emma and I spent the day with my family out exploring Kazan. I’m really glad we got the opportunity because I think it’s really important to enjoy the whole experience when we go to competitions! First we went to the Kazan family centre/viewpoint.
Outside the United Buddy Bear project was being displayed. Each bear was created by an artist to represent their country. The motto of the project is ‘We have to get to know each other better…it makes us understand one another better, trust eachother more, and live together more peacefully.’ The idea is to promote living together in peace and harmony. Some of the designs were really incredible and it was interesting to see how the different countries wanted to show themselves.
From the top of the viewpoint you could see over the whole of Kazan including all the venues for the competition! This is where the selfie sticks we got given by the competition came in handy!
We also went into Kazan where we held a little monkey called Anton. We also held a python but I’m not sure what his name was – we didn’t want to stick around him for too long!
Now that we’re back we’ve got a little break away from centralised training – and it’s also my 18th birthday soon so I’m really excited! Then in September we’re choreographing two new duet routines which hopefully we are really going to be able to perform with good intensity because they will be more suited to us. We know that there’s a lot of work to do to get to Rio next year but we’re ready for it!
Yesterday the GB synchro team went up to the NEC in Birmingham to be kitted out by Adidas as part of Team GB for the 1st European Games in Baku – which is only 11 days away! It was so exciting to be part of something so huge and it was incredible to know I was one of the 163 GB athletes selected to be a part of the experience.
It was amazing walking into the kitting out building – outside there was a big sign saying welcome Team GB and through the doors was an archway with the Team GB logo on it. The team at the venue were so welcoming, helpful and supportive and it was the start to a fantastic day!
After being briefed about the day we met our personal shoppers – mine was Laura! She helped me pick out the right sizes in all the different bits of kit and helped me make sure they all fitted well. There was so much to try on! It was so exciting to keep finding different items to try. There were trainers, t-shirts, shorts, trousers and jackets – pretty much everything you could think of!
After trying on all of the village, training and ceremony wear we went through to the Adidas competition section where we received our swimming costumes. In this section there was also a huge Baku board where all of the athletes signed their name – it looked really cool!
That was the last section for trying to kit on, from there we went on to get our official Team GB headshots taken! I felt really proud in this part especially, because it really felt like I was a part of Team GB!
The last part of the day was the media area. Here I had an interview about the upcoming games and we also played a game of pictionary, having to draw things all to do with Team GB! It was very fun although I have to say my drawing skills weren’t too great – I think I’ll stick to synchro!
The last thing for us to do was get all of our kit! It was so cool watching them pack it all into our suitcases and getting them given to us – I couldn’t believe it was all for us!
The whole day was incredible and I am so excited to be able to wear the kit and proudly represent GB soon at the Baku 2015 Games!
The beginning of our trip to Tokyo was quite eventful! After boarding the plane ready for our twelve hour flight we found out that there was technical problem and ended up with a four hour delay before being put on a new plane leaving four hours later! Fortunately this one took off without a problem and I began the longest plane journey I’d ever been on!
It was the first time I had ever been to Japan and it was very exciting! It wasn’t as modern as I expected it to be but there were so many skyscrapers and buildings – I was also surprised by the amount of greenery there still was! The evening we arrived we took a little walk and got to see the city in the dark which looked really cool because of all the lights.
The next day we went to the pool for training. The pool was really nice and it was pretty big! There was an olympic sized swimming pool, a diving pit and another training pool. In the afternoon we had music time to practice our two routines which was good so we could go through the routines and practice our travel around the pool.
Saturday was the first day of the competition and we swam in the technical duet event. We hadn’t competed in the tech since Europeans last August, so we were a bit nervous but we knew we had done all the training so just needed to concentrate on our corrections. We finished with a score of 75.6821 which was really pleasing as it was a step up from our last competition :)
The next day we competed in the free duet. At the moment this is our stronger routine and we wanted to get a higher score than we did on tech. The theme is very different to our other routine so our presentation was really important. We received a score of 78.3667 moving us up to 11th place which meant we had qualified for the finals.
That afternoon we went to visit the sky tree- the tallest tower in the world! We could see it from our hotel and from the pool so it was really exciting to get the opportunity to go up it as we had wanted to see it since we arrived.
The views from the tower were amazing! Unfortunately we didn’t go all the way to the highest point but what we did see was incredible!
On the last day of the competition we competed in the finals which meant swimming the free duet event again. We were really pushing to get a higher score so we were concentrating on making our presentation bigger and really pushing for height and energy in the last lap of the routine. We got a score of 78.9 which felt really good and we finished in 4th place in the international section! From being in Japan we noticed that all of their club teams and especially their national team were so sharp and accurate with all their positions so we want to learn from that and use it to improve our routines.
On the last evening we got a taxi near to Tokyo City centre. The buildings and lights looked so cool when it was dark! We looked around the shops and found some really interesting souvenirs. Then after looking around for a few hours we found a restaurant where we actually ended up having chicken and chips! However it was served in a Japanese style which was very different to how we have it in England.
As we were on our way back to get a taxi to the hotel we could hear bells and singing so we went to have a look and it turned out to the a festival. We went to get a closer look and two Japanese men ended up lending Emma and I their festival outfits so we could join in! They were carrying a sort of temple so we swapped with some of the others and helped carry it through the streets of Tokyo! It was very lucky timing as it was such a cool thing to experience.
The whole competition was lovely and the Japanese were very welcoming hosts. We also saw Masayo, the coach from the Japanese national team who came over to train GB for a little bit, and it was lovely to catch up with her.
It was the first competition I had been to without the team which was very strange! They were back in England competing in the English champs and they all did really well. I was really pleased for them and to hear about how well they did and how good the swims were!
The entire experience was brilliant – the competition was different to usual as it felt a bit calmer but at the same time there was still pressure to do good swims as we want to keep improving.
We’ve recently had our first training session back after our competition in Istanbul two weeks ago. It was our first international competition as a new team and it was very successful! It was a qualification event towards the 1st European Games in Baku this June. In order to qualify we had to place in the top 6th overall, with all events counting towards the final placing.
The first two days we were out in Istanbul were for training, so we could get used to the pool and surroundings as it was bigger than the pool we train in so we were practicing traveling all around the pool, as well as each country having a certain amount of music time to practice their routine.
The competition began on Thursday, with the solo event, which was swum by Gen Randall and placed 7th.
Friday afternoon was my first swim of the competition, the free combination team event, swimming alongside Hannah Randall, Esme Lower, Emma Critchley, Jorja Brown, Lara Hockin, Phoebe Bradley-Smith, Genevieve Randall, Danielle Cooper and Rebecca Richardson – it was great to swim our first routine with all ten of us together. The routine was themed around dolls and the crowd seemed to really enjoy it! It’s a really enjoyable routine to swim because it’s artistic – there are lots of changes in tempo and different facial expression. It’s important to really exaggerate presentation in synchro so that the judges, and the whole audience can see it! We came 4th in the combo, with a score of 74.1667, just behind the host nation with Belarus and France filling the top two spots.
This was us during the combo event:
Saturday morning was the figure competition. We had to compete the two compulsory figures – porpoise and rocket split, as well as group 2 – manta ray and butterfly. The figure scores were to be combined with the result from the solo, free team and free duet to give them an overall score. Well done to Jorja who finished as our top swimmer in 7th place :) That afternoon we did some training in preparation for the free duet and free team the next day, as well as some video review from practice on previous days.
The last day of the competition began with the free duet event, swum by myself and Gen, with Emma as reserve. We were really pleased with our swim and now know what we need to improve to push our score up. We finished in 6th place with a routine score of 75.8667.
Here’s me and Gen when we’d finished –
The competition ended with the free team event and the whole team was really driven as we were fighting for a bronze medal. The routine was strong and we knew we had to go out and attack it, swimming with high intensity and accuracy. We finished the event in third place meaning we were going to receive a bronze medal! It was an amazing end to a great competition, and standing up on the podium to receive our bronze medal was a great feeling!
The competiton was not only succesful because we qualified for the European Games, but also because as a team we were very supportive of each other, everybody each gave their best effort and I felt priveledged to be captain of such a great team.
Looking forward the duet squad is training toward the Olympic qualification event next year. Our next competition is the Japan Open coming up in May and then we will be training with the squad towards selection for the Baku European Games.
We recently arrived back home after a week in Berlin, Germany for the European Championships. Overall we were thrilled with the results from the competition, with all of the routines showing a great improvement from training. It was our first major competition as a new squad, and though there were a lot of challenges to face, we maintained our focused and had a really good competition!
The week began with two days of training to get used to the pool space and the surroundings. The pool width was bigger than our pool at the Garrison, so we had to practice travelling further across the pool. We also had limited music time so the sessions were short but quite intense. It was a different type of training to what we were used to however the team all adapted well so we still made a lot of improvements.
The first day of the competition was all about the technical routines starting with Gen’s tech solo, followed by our tech duet and then finishing with the tech team. It also happened to be my 17th birthday which was weird because I’d never had a birthday away before! We were pleased with our tech duet swim – it was hard but also felt like our best swim. We were a bit disappointed with our scores, however we now know that our main area for improvement is the execution of the elements. The tech team was really enjoyable to swim, which was shown by our energy and presentation during the performance, and it was a really good start to the team competition!
The following days all only had two events. Thursday was free duet in the morning and free team in the evening. Once again we felt like the free duet was our best swim, with our lifts working well and our intensity a little bit higher than usual. It was after this that we found our two duet scores combined would not gain us a place in the final on Saturday. This was extremely disappointing however we moved up from 14th in tech duet to 13th in free duet, showing us where we need to make changes and improvements
That evening was the free team competition, and it was probably one of the hardest swims we’d done. Our coaches said it looked like we pushed through and kept the energy at the end which was really pleasing to hear! Now our focus was to make corrections to lift the score up in the final!
Friday was the last day of the prelims, consisting of the free solo and combo. Gen moved up the ranks in her solo which she was really happy with and knows for the future to focus a bit more on the tech solo. The combo in the evening was a great swim, it’s always really fun to perform and put in lots of energy and presentation. Both lifts worked well which was one of our key focuses for the swim.
After the prelims were finished we had a couple fo overall focuses going into the finals – smaller patterns and better posture. We now only had one event per day so it was all about putting everything we had into the swim.
Both of our final swims improved from prelims which was a brilliant achievement for the team! Our biggest improvement was combo which was exactly two points higher in the final! The feedback from coaches, judges and the audience was great and we finished the week on a really good note :)
Time has flown by since our swim in the French Open at the Make-up Forever competition near Paris, where both team and duet got through to the finals. We were pleased for the opportunity, it was our first international competition as a new squad after Worlds last year, and we were happy with the outcome.
Unfortunately soon after this competition a valuable team member retired and we had to compete at British Champs with seven in the team instead of eight. The swim was very well received and the adjusted team performed very well together. It was a very special moment as it was our last competition with our coaches Biz, Lolli and Laura, due to the funding cuts.
After Champs was a very intense study period for me – I took my business studies A level which I did in one year but do not find out my results until mid August. (Fingers crossed!) Farnborough Tech and my tutor Keith Cable were extremely helpful keeping me up to date with work considering the amount of time I had spent away training.
Loss of funding also meant I had to leave my host family, who I had been staying with since October. It was hard because I developed a nice relationship with Jo, Andy and their two boys, I’m sure I will keep in touch with them. Since then I was offered a place to stay with one of my friends and Rushmoor synchro team mate Emma, and from now until Europeans will be staying with another GB synchro team member and good friend Imogen.
After British Champs, I was selected to swim the duet. There are three of us for training purposes and two will be chosen to swim at the competition. Training has been really intense, especially since the last two weeks have been full-time. This has been a great opportunity to get to know the part time athletes better, and work with our new coaches who are both Olympians! For the past two weeks, having a full time squad has enabled to work on our lifts more and they have really improved. Here’s a picture of our first lift in the free team!
Our next competition is Europeans in Berlin, which is now only two weeks away! In preparation for it we have been doing simulations of each of the events, which basically means we do exactly what we would do on the day, from breakfast, to warming up, all the way to the actual swim and review afterwards. The idea is to be put in a pressured environment, much like the competition, to learn how to handle it so that we know how to cope when we get there.
So far we have done four simulations, starting with solo tech and tech team, and then free duet and free team a few days later. We practiced everything, including gelling our hair and doing our make up, as well as wearing the competition swimsuits.
This was me with my team mate Imogen before the tech team swim!
After the competition we have a few weeks off and because I will soon turn 17 (whilst we are in Berlin!) I’ll be learning to drive and I’m very excited! I also hope to be going on holiday with my mum – although we’re not sure where yet, and then it will be back to training for the next selection.
A couple of weeks ago I was also asked to perform with Aquabatix at an event in London, where Bombay Bicycle Club were playing live. We were performing a similar routine to the one in the music video to the song ‘Luna’. It was a very exciting day, and it was really strange to perform to live music but it was also really fun! We also got to meet the band which was really cool and they jumped in with us at the end of the performance. We were lucky enough to get some good pictures of the routine :)
I’m sure the next two weeks are going to pass by very quickly and then we’ll be on the plane. We’re all really looking forward to Europeans – all the routines are really improving and we can’t wait to go and see how we do.
Recently the GB synchro team has had their funding cut by UK sport. The decision came as a big shock to all of us, including the support staff. We were expecting a small cut, because last summer seven of the team’s athletes retired, however as a new team we are showing great improvement and potential, and it is disappointing that we may not be able to show that to the world.
I have been with the GB synchro team for just over a year now, training up to 45 hours a week, in order to achieve my dream of reaching the Olympics, along with my team mates. I have sacrificed a lot for the sport, I relocated in order to be near our training base, as well as putting school work on hold, and spending less time with my family. A lack of funding in the future would mean I would have to give up the sport I had dedicated eight years of my life to. We won’t be able to inspire younger athletes to pursue their dream of the Olympics, or continue to attract interest as we did after the London 2012.
Synchro has been funded by UK sport since 2007, and had consistently met all of their targets agreed by UK sport. The team placed sixth in the London 2012 Olympics, and the duet 9th, delivering their best results so far. Synchro has also finaled at the past three World Championships. It was an honour to be in the team that was in the finals last year in Barcelona, and I will try my hardest to make sure I am able to experience that again, as it has been and still is my ultimate ambition to compete at the Olympics. It’s difficult to know what else the sport could have done, after 2012 the demand for places in synchro clubs showed a massive increase and we have clearly met our performance goals.
The next step for the sport is to appeal against UK sport’s decision. Whilst our national performance director and support staff go through the formal process of the appeal, as athletes we will continue to strive for excellence in each and every one of our training sessions. Everyday we will go to the pool in the hope that we will get our funding back, and train with the belief and confidence that this will happen. We are all staying positive going forward, and will train hard to get the best results we can at the French Open in March.
On November 16th we travelled up to Birmingham for the Swimtastic awards – an evening to celebrate young people and families involved in aquatics. The day began with an autograph signing session where we got to meet all of the young stars. It was incredible finding out some of the things that they had accomplished at such a young age.
Then in the afternoon there was a ‘swim with the stars’ session in the pool. We were put in groups and took part in a lot if activities – there were raft races, water polo matches and synchro routines. I have to admit that the orange team (our team!!) did do very well!
After that we went back to hotel to get ready for the evening awards. It was lovely to get dressed up as I’m so used to seeing everyone in a swimming costume and swim camp! When we arrived the venue looked wonderful and the evening meal was brilliant :)
My favourite part of the day was the awards because it was amazing to hear about all the stars’ achievements. It was a privilege to give the family swim awards to the Jones family who are all involved in swimming. Not only did we meet the young stars but as also met other athletes such as Josef Craig (Paralympic gold medallist) and Hannah Starling (Olympic diver).
It was sad to see the evening end but I think it’s safe to say we made the most of the last hour on the dance floor!
We’ve recently got back from the National Age Groups in Gloucester – our first competition as a new team! It was a great opportunity for everyone to see our new GB squad in action. They were the first to see the ‘magic’ free routine since we learnt it in September. The response from the crowd was thrilling – last year at nationals we were all swimming for our clubs so I hope for many young swimmers it provides inspiration.
The exhibition routine was scored for training purposes and we were extremely pleased with the result – which was in fact not too far off our result from the World Championships earlier this year which is a brilliant starting point for the team. We now have feedback from the judges to work with and time to make changes and improve highlights before our next competition in March.
Our figures were also a great result. Personally I was very pleased as I finished 11 places higher than last year. The team all did really well and we now have a good focus for next year and a big thanks goes to the coaches Biz, Lolli and Laura for all the effort they’ve put in this year.
Not long ago we arrived back from a training camp in Ostia, Italy. The aim of the camp was to choreograph two new routines, and they are both really exciting and suit the team really well, which means that they’re really enjoyable to swim!
We began the training camp in the outdoor pool, although by the end we’d moved indoors! The weather started off really well but unfortunately it started to get a bit windy and cold which is why we moved indoors – one afternoon it actually started raining whilst we were in the outdoor pool! Even though it made it cold it was a pretty cool experience being in the pool whilst it was raining, although it did make it hard to hear the coaches sometimes! Here’s Amy and I after speed swimming on one of the sunny days :)
We did a lot of speed swimming for the first and last few days of the camp which was weird in a fifty metre pool. It was actually really good swimming in the outdoor pool because even though it was a bit colder I think we actually swam faster! The choreographer was only with us for 10 days in which time we had to create two new routines so we were expecting it to be quite intense. The training was hard and some sessions were quite long however it was really fun coming up with ideas and trying out new lifts and highlights. Now we’ve got the base of the routines it’s going to be about perfecting them and making sure the choreography is right to get the best scores possible at the competitions!
Here’s a photo of the team with the choreographer Stephan (excuse the dodgy tan lines!)
Whilst we were out there it was also one of the team member’s birthdays. Imogen turned 15 and we all dressed up a bit to go to the restaurant for dinner that evening. The staff there were really kind and made her a cake which was really tasty! It was a lovely evening and we all hope Imogen had a really good day :) This picture is of me, Imogen and Lucy after the dinner!
And we couldn’t leave Italy without making sure they would remember us! We all ended up running through the airport and almost missing our flight, with a few funny looks from other people at the airport, but we ended up there in time!
The camp was a really good experience, and unlike anything myself, and I expect most of the team have ever done before, and I think we will all look forward to next time we go on a choreography camp and in the meantime want to make the teams we have really good!
It’s only just time to start training again and we’re heading to Italy on Sunday!! Trials finished last week but the results haven’t been announced until now so I couldn’t post any earlier.
The 7 girls in the team earlier this year that went to the Olympics have retired from the sport, and so their spots needed to be filled as five of us stayed in the team, although we had to retrial as well. I think we all miss the other girls that have left, but wish them the best of luck in what they want to do now and hope to be as inspiring as they were.
As I mentioned the five of us that went to the World Championships in July re trialled this summer along with all the new girls, and were fortunately all reselected! There are four new members in the team now and have been training about a week. I think that they are all excited to be in the team and at the moment are sorting out everything to do with accommodation and schooling before starting full time with the squad! I’m really looking forward to training with a new and different team :)
We’re flying to Italy on Sunday for a choreography camp for three weeks which sounds like a great experience as I have never been on a choreography camp before! Although it doesn’t feel like I’ve been back for very long and am already going again!
At the moment our usual training pool, the High Performance Centre, is closed for refurbishment so we have been training at Surrey Sports Park in Guildford and when we get back from Italy we will be training in another different pool. We have also started training with a new coach for our land warm up, Hannah, who has been doing lots of core and back work with us (which leaves us feeling extremely achy the next day!) and also doing some dance turns for balance and stability, which has been really fun.
I will update again after or perhaps in Italy to tell you about the choreography camp – I’m sure it will be a very interesting post!