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Swim Wales National Open Water Championships 2021

10 athletes from A.N.T. Swimming Club of Somerset competed in their Target Meet - Swim Wales National Open Water Championships 2021 - at Llandegfedd Lake.on 4 Sep 2021. 

JubilANT Coaches Nicky Taylor and Andrew Turner shared the following report:

"After Covid enforced closure of pools in 2020, we identified that the discipline of Open Water would continue to grow with athletes, used to swimming in the pool, opting for the slightly less visible environment of the Lakes. 

"We started with some "Intro to Open Water" (OW) sessions and this attracted a key group of athletes keen to progress with Open Water Swimming. Throughout the Covid Lockdown, we were able to start a training regime for those talented OW swimmers and formed WAVE - our Open Water Elite Squad. Numbers in this squad increased as the lake temperatures decreased, but this did not deter them.

"Our OW sessions moved to the Pool for a weekly 2 hr session, starting to build stamina and endurance whilst honing those valuable OW skills. Drafting, Sighting, Manoeuvring round turns, dead starts etc were all practised week-on-week through the winter and into the New Year.

"When temperatures returned, we moved the training back to Cromhall Quarry, S.Glos twice a week, incorporating with great success a new Junior OW Session to attract new developing younger OW swimmers. Another 2 athletes identified moved into Wave Elite. 

"So now the training was completed, all Covid forms returned, Virtual safety briefings attended and after an early morning alarm clock, we arrived at Llandegfedd Lake, Wales. It is a stunning location with excellent viewing for spectators and a clearly marked (eventually) 1km lap course was laid our before us. "A.N.T. Swimming certainly made an impact with base camp erected on the newly named ANT Hill (not quite Henman Hill) but we were there!

"Our 10 athletes comprised of:

12/13yrs - 2km (Leni, Harriet, Amy)
14/15yrs - 3km (Charles, Holly & Tash)
16yrs + - 5km ( Grace & Tommy)
GB Masters - 3km (Emma & Cherie)

"Registration was called by the fantastic Swim Wales team of Hope Filby and Jack Brown, who had been excellent with their communication to arrange this event, and with whom we had spoken several times to confirm our entries. Packs included a Swim Wales Athlete Bag (all about the merch!) and the Race Numbers.

"A lot of fun was involved with sticker Race Numbers with all parents on hand to help with bucket and sponges at the ready - a great conveyor belt of processes taking place to get our swimmers ready on time! (Learning Point 1 - Take own bucket and sponge next time!)

"Next came the Warm Up led by Coach Andrew. All our athletes actioned their Pre-Swim warm-ups as a team, using this time to ask him any questions and sharing their own thoughts / apprehension with the group for team support. "Warm-up over, it was time to get in the water with an allocated acclimatisation slot, using this for the last minute valuable checks (hats, goggles, water temperature, visibility). The team gave each other geat feedback as they climbed out and returned back to Base Camp. "Next came the Team Race Briefing. Collectively each athlete listened to 
- the Brief from Coach Andrew 
- Specific Briefs for each athlete on how to swim their races 
- How to Pace
- Strategies for key points in the Race and 
- Positive encouragement
- Course layout explanations (1km lap x No of laps per distance)
All are key in racing.  After recapping and checking the route is clear and the athletes understood the routes all completed, it was now time to race!

First Race - Boys / Girls 16yrs + 5km.
"Tommy C and Grace N were up first. Tommy, an experienced Open Water athlete looked ready to go in his wildly pink hat, with Grace quietly confident in her first Open Water Event in Blue.

"After a great start by both, Grace moved out with the leaders on Lap 1 and Tommy settled into his strong powerful stroke just behind. 5 x 1km laps ticked past with Grace joining the chasing group of 5 following 2 faster girls in front. Not ever having swam more than 1500m in a pool or 3km OW in training, Grace entered unknown territory for the final 2 laps, finishing in 5th place overall in 00:59.52 - a sub 1hr 5km effort!

"Tommy was fANTastic, up against some strong Club swimmers. He battled through to finish 7th in 01:05.59 for 5km The battle for 1st / 2nd proved the value in sighting skills as a swimmer lost out after failing to sight the entrance to the finish line funnel and cut across the lane ropes, 

The Girls / Boys 12/13yrs - 2km Race 

"The next race started at the same time as the Girls / Boys 14/15yrs - 3km race.

"The 12/13yrs age group featured Leni, Harriet and Amy on the start line. A very close-proximity deep water start saw our girls make a fast start. Leni pulled through the pack, finding clear water at the front of the pack just after the first buoy. Stretching out the stroke, Leni delivered a masterclass in OW swimming and developed a strong lead after Lap 1. Lap 2 saw her extend the gap to the next group. On passing the penultimate buoy, Leni stopped to check the course. Sun glare on the water surface made it nigh on impossible to sight the final buoy, so by taking a few seconds to stop and ensure direction, Leni proceeded to finish the course strongly, with a great kick into the finish line. Leni hit the overhead to complete the race in 1st place and become National OW Champion in 00:24.20, a full 1.5 minutes ahead of second place. "Meanwhile Harriet, following closely behind, joined her own group to incorporate her drafting skills. Superb efficiency from Harriet - pulling out wider to achieve the racing line through the turns and accelerating out - saw her slicing through the pack to emerge a clear third and achieve a bronze medal overall in 00:26.13 - This Girl Can!!

"Next to finish was Amy who only started open water swimming in the last few months. Despite being one of the younger swimmers in the 12-13 age group, Amy delivered a sensational confident swim to achieve 7th place overall in an excellent sub 30 minute time, 00:29.49. A great debrief afterwards identified her outcome and learning points for next time. And yes.. there will be one! 

The Girls / Boys 14/15yrs - 3km race

"With a joint start and the 2km swimmers home already, our 3km athletes we’re still going. Holly showed her experience in the 3km event with excellent sighting skills around the course. Connecting to a fastest group, she battled hard, chasing the leaders from Ellesmere College. In a fast last lap which saw a break away from the leading pair, Holly increased her renowned leg kick and came through to secure fourth position in 00:38.24.

"Next in was Charles. Due to the competition being a National Event, and therefore age as 31 Dec and not event date, Charles was moved up an age group which meant an additional km added to his swim in the 3km. This didn’t phase Charle who has a “Can-Do” attitude. Only a few months into OW training (with Amy), he kept his head and navigated the course with precision, pace and stamina, finishing in 6th overall in 00:39.40. Admittedly it resulted in a “flat out” recovery position, followed by refuelling and seemingly eating his bodyweight in pasta !

"Our final athlete in the 3km was Tash. Not a club swimmer or experienced OW swimmer. Tash only started swimming with ANT 12 weeks ago, starting in our Junior Open Water Sessions. She has developed fast and wanted to set herself a challenge to compete in an event. What better first ever event than Nationals! Never having swam a 3km distance before, Tash didnt get sucked into the fast start to the race and maintained her pace for the full 3 laps. Lap 1 went well, with Lap 2 passing by with a single song playing round in her head.. Pushing through the uncertainty, and thriving on the adrenaline of almost there.. she finished the race in 00:54.30 for 9th place - a real dedicated athlete and true star.

British Masters National Open Water Championships - 3km

"After a short break, the Men set off first with the Women following a half lap behind.

"Both Emma and Cherie had their own race plans. Emma, a pool swimmer who converted to OW this season, had previously swam the 3 rounds of the Swim Wales Challenge Series. She was up against a tough field but feeling confident after her times from previous rounds. A fast race for Emma saw her clock an amazing time of 00:40.34, which shaved minutes off her previous 3km best. The effort won Gold and title of British Masters Open Water Champion 2021 (F40-44). "Cherie, a seasoned Somerset Masters Pool swimmer and great butterfly swimmer, had truly pushed herself outside her comfort zone. 1 - she was wearing a wetsuit (usually a skins only swimmer) 2 - she was in a huge expanse of Open Water (which causes anxiety for her) 3- she had never swam an Open Water event before. But did this phase her? No! Cherie is everyone else’s biggest supporter, so it was fantastic to see her receive the support back from the rest of the team as we cheered and celebrated Cherie completing the course in fourth place in  00:52.30! That amazing achievement produced some tears of relief and pride.

"With Emma swimming her second 3km of the day to complete her Swim Wales Challenge Series Medal Collection, several visits to the Merchandise Shop ensued and after a celebratory Medal Presentation, our Race Day concluded.

"What a day! We are proud as coaches that we could support, train and deliver our first Open Water competitive event as a Swimming Club. We were proud also to receive  recognition from Swim Wales for travelling across the border to their event, and also from many swimming clubs and coaches who complimented our athletes, coaches and setup as being new on the scene of Open Water. There was a fANTastic atmosphere today and we loved every second of it.

"Finally a few thank you’s: 
- Athletes for just being superb in your attitude and performance. 
- Parents for travelling to both training and racing, and keeping us coaches fuelled with coffee! 
- And to Coach Georgia (who couldn’t be at the event today due to a holiday) for leading and driving WAVE open water elite squad each Sunday.

"Our next event is the Exmoor Open Water Swim for our Open Water Athletes on 26 Sep 2021 at Wimbleball Lake.

"If you are interested in joining our Open Water Training / Competitive Squad, then give us a call on 07889 362605 - all ages are welcome."

Nicky Taylor / Andrew Turner
A.N.T. Swimming Club

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