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Last weekend, Olivia Nicholls (y10) took part in the Open Water England Talent Programme, and even though it was cold, rainy and dirty, she thoroughly enjoyed herself. The programme took place at Salford Quays, Dock 9 where boys and girls aged from 15 to 18 grafted and tackled to get to the finish line first. Olivia soon realised that Open Water Swimming is a hard sport, and that it was an achievement to make it onto the Programme. Here are some of Olivia’s thoughts on the sessions and her fantastic achievement;

I’m not all that sure how I got picked for the Programme, but it had something to do with how well I swim in the pool. For example, the organisers of the Programme chose swimmers based on their long distance times in the swimming pool – 800m freestyle for women, and 1500m freestyle for men. What I also think contributed to the decision was how well I did in Open Water races last year. This could include the ASA Regional Championships 3K or my multiple races for U-Swim, which takes place in Dock 8. Either way, they’re trying to tell me or hint at me that I am a long distance freestyler who should be ‘swamp-swimming’ instead of soft core lane swimming.

The day consisted of short blasts of sprinting, technique work, tough distance swims, endless lectures and a talk from two former Olympians… whom I cant remember the names of. We watched videos of plenty of races to show us how rough the sport could be, and that it is certainly not for the feint-hearted -as I would later find out in the water when a ten feet tall ( maybe not that tall ) 17 year old lad elbowed me in the forehead as we dive in for a sprint. Not good. They also showed us how well Britain had done over the years in World Championships and the Olympics, and how many opportunities we have as youth swimmers in the future; last year, the Programme took 12 swimmers to sunny Mallorca, for a week in the Mediterranean Sea… and if I keep up the sport, I could have the same opportunity. As well as explaining different techniques, they urged us how dangerous Open Water Swimming is. The amount of things that could go wrong in a race scares me, and I dread to think what would happen to me if anything went wrong to me or my friends – it would put me off for life. In fact, I’m surprised that the Programme itself didn’t put people off. I was in the water in just a costume when I watched an 18 year old boy in a wetsuit need help climbing out because he was shivering so violently; my coach pulled out a tin foil sheet and rushed him inside. Let me reiterate that he was wearing a wetsuit, made to preserve your body heat so that didn’t happen to anyone.

When we were in the water we were all so violent towards eachother, but you had to just bite down and get on with it, otherwise you would come last – and what’s the point in being soft when you’ve been working hard to come first? All the kicking and hitting didn’t matter once we had left the water though, we all knew it was inevitable that everyone would come out with a couple of scratches and bruises, and we were okay with that. We just had to be a team and help each other.

After the two long swim sessions, we had yet another lecture to encourage us to carry on with Open Water Swimming. I failed to mention to them that I have my summer completely booked out with swims. Next week, I have the next ASA Regional Championships, and I will hopefully come out with a higher place than third, as I did last year. I then have the Welsh National Championships, a 3K in a lake that I cant even pronounce. This all builds up to the last swim of the season… a ten miler in Windermere. I cant even comprehend myself why I am doing this yet, I just all hope that it turns out okay, and I can go even further with Open Water Swimming the rest of this season. 

We are proud of Olivia and will continue to blog about her progress towards an Olympic dream.