The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago, was the first real test of British Swimming after the disappointing results both in London and last years world championships in Barcelona. And what a test it turned out to be. British Swimming posted its best CG results since 1986 and the team put on a fantastic display of guts, determination and sheer raw talent.
Of course it's easy to get carried away with the Glasgow results and over blow their significance as we are constantly reminded, the Americans and the Chinese weren't there and neither were the strong European countries.
So, to get it in perspective, I have been digesting the Glasgow results and comparing them against what the US had to offer in the American Nationals and of course, the European and Pan-Pacific competitions are only a few weeks away. Then, when all the counts are in, we will see how good our swimmers really are.
But even so, looking at the Glasgow results and comparing them to last year's worlds, when we won only 1 bronze, against these results, we would have come away with a stunning 10 medals. Such improvements inside the space of a year will make a lot of people around the world sit up and take notice.
Considering that Michael Phelps, the greatest swimmer of all time, has just made a comeback at age 29 and will be 31 in 2016 when Rio comes around (almost an old man in swimming terms) The majority of this new GB team is aged between 18-20 and the older established swimmers are only 24! By the time Rio comes around our squad will be peaking and close to its very best.
In my 23 years of being on the UK swimming team, I have never seen such strength and depth in the squad, so these are very exciting times.
This all demonstrates that for the last couple of years, British Swimming has been doing its ground work and is clearly getting something right.
No, we are not the USA and never will be, but if you look at France, who won 4 Olympic Gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze in London 2012, I think we can do as well if not better than them in Rio.
And this is not just talking up team GB.
Looking at the current World Rankings; Ross Murdoch (200m Breast) Fran Halsall (50m Freestyle) and Siobhan Marie O'Connor (200m IM) Ben Proud (50m Butterfly) are all ranked no 1 in the world and that does not happen by chance. This clutch of swimmers is immensely talented but more importantly are, working hard and working smart.
We also have a handful of swimmers in the top 3 in the world; Adam Peaty, Michael Jamieson, Hannah Miley, Jazmin Carlin, Georgia Davies and Lauren Quigley. I mention them all, because they deserve to be known and hopefully they will be household names by the time Rio rolls around.
I predict that this swimming squad are the start of a new golden age of British swimming and 2 in particular stick out for me: Ben Proud and Fran Halsall. This is because they are both sprinters and the world sprint competition in the water is fierce, Sprinters are the hardest swimmers to train, as it's almost an art; do too much or push too hard and you over train, which impedes performance. Sprinters are like racehorses they need to train smart and train specific. And the fact is in the past, the UK hasn't known how to train sprinters, until now.
Which brings me onto why we are doing so well. Its all about about the unsung heroes; The Coaches.
High performance swimming is never just about the swimmer and their talent, neither is it about Olympic Pools, (although they help and are clearly needed) but it's the coaches and their knowledge which really pulls everything together.
Fran is coached by James Gibson, and Ben is coached by Jon Rudd. These guys understand how to get the most out of their swimmers. You can have all the ability in the world, but if you are given the wrong work programme, you won't reach your full potential. James and Jon have now got it absolutely right.
I'm looking forward to see how fast these guys can get Fran and Ben to go as well as all the other swimmers in their groups. And it's not just these two. The GB squad has always had good coaches but now we have some great coaches. Great coaches and great swimmers produce awesome performances... so bring on Rio.
Great Britain is not sending the full team to the Europeans, but the majority will be there. Lets see how this team fares against the European elites.
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