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Alan PortalConfirmation came this week from our governing body, Scottish Swimming, that there will be no more aquatic competitions, at any level, until the end of August due to the Coronavirus pandemic, effectively drawing the curtain on the 2019/20 season.

So although its come much sooner than any of us wanted, or could have predicted, it’s the time to look back at our swimmers’ achievements over the last six months with Junior Coach, Alan Dickson, who has been leading the team since the departure of Jess Wilkie at the end of February.

“A high point for me was DRP,” he says. “It was good to see us building on last year’s numbers and all the kids who went acquitted themselves very well.

This year six swimmers made it onto the first rung on the national talent ladder – Caelin Chan, Fraser Cowie, Lewis Gibson, Erin Moore, Sophie Steele and Isla Waller, taking part the all-day sessions held at Larkhall.

DRP 1“Sophie Steele made stroke camp for front crawl which was excellent,” continues Alan, “and I know that looking at the kids coming up from Gold squad that there’s a real cause for optimism and a steady stream of swimmers who I can see going to DRP in the year to come.”

The Covid-19 crisis came just at the wrong time for a whole bunch of swimmers who were rightly excited about getting their first taste of the Scottish National Age Group Championships – or SNAGS as every swimmer comes to know them.

The disappointment of the – inevitable – cancellation of the event has been compounded by never even getting the satisfaction of confirmation that they made the cut to swim in Aberdeen, because the plug was pulled before the draft programme was ever released.

A handful had achieved definite qualification times but there were others who were still waiting to find out if consideration times, and the short course conversions they’d bagged, would be enough to get them a lane.

With the season now scratched it looks like that’s destined to be one of life’s unanswered questions for them.

Alan sees reason for consolation: “We were really well represented among the younger age groups in the qualifying for SNAGS which bodes well for the future. This is great time to reflect on how well they swam in that period and what they would do differently.

Schools Jen logo“Jen Murray and Fraser Kelly also had the rug pulled from under their feet when it came to participating in the Olympic trials, but it doesn’t take away that they qualified, and I’m sure they’d have been going down there full of hope for some good swims!

“95% of the hard work has already been done and that learning and experience is all in the locker for when we get back to swimming.”

The Synchro squad have plenty of proud moments to look back on too.

Seven swimmers achieved grade passes at Bo’ness in February and Erin Furey, Ailidh Brobyn, Erin Patten and Emma Binnie were thrilled the represent the club as part of the Synchro Caledonia team competing in NAGS in Manchester at the start of the month, which turned out to be one of the last competitive events before the virus spoiled everyone’s fun.

There have been some important developments for the club, too, with the establishment of a Young Masters squad with a clear aim of helping to retain teenagers’ interest in the sport after they decide to take a step back from the intensity of regular training and competition.

Whenever the shutdown ends and we’re all able to get back in the water the existence of this squad will be more important than ever – it would be tragic if we ended up losing young people to swimming because of this situation.

Alan remains optimistic for the future of the club.

Development Boys“The Development squad is really well-established, and we’ve got some great numbers on Tuesday and Thursday nights,” he says. “Michelle and Kirsty do a great job and that’s reflected in how many attend on a regular basis. That really is the lifeblood of the club as we go forward.

“We managed to set up dedicated sessions for Silver, Gold, Youth and National squads which lets the coaches write sessions which are appropriate to the age and stage the swimmers are at. It allows us to focus on the individuals more and driving the performance of the kids as we move forward.

“It’s also apparent how the number of kids competing at competitions has grown year on year.

“In 2016 we had 10 home swimmers at our 200 Meet, and this year that number swelled to 33, and that was at a gala which was heavily over-subscribed, which shows where we are as a club and how much improvement there’s been.

“Although we might not be able train in water, or gather together, this club is going to stay very active over the summer.

“Already we’re put together a series of land training videos to help our swimmers maintain as much of their fitness as possible during the Coronavirus shutdown, and we’re encouraging everyone to share what they’re doing on social media to keep us all motivated.”