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March 2019

The student who made me want to coach

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At the age of 10 I was taken to my first early morning swim training session (a whole 3 minutes away!) by my parents.

I was woken with a cup of tea and I remember moaning about how early it was. Dad was great, and reminded me this is what champions needed to do. He was going to drop me off on the way to work and then Mum would pick me up afterwards with a mad dash to get ready for school. It was no real hardship and having learned to swim many years earlier it was a natural progression.

Fast forward many years and many medals later – coaching did not immediately appeal. As I retired and thought about what was next, after a wonderful 4 years of swimming in a US college, a scholarship to a private sports school and the opportunity to race around the world, poolside with kids at swim club did not appeal. Via the sport of Triathlon and the opportunity to help adults learn to swim faster a new challenge was presenting itself. Kids were a different entity and did not appeal, as was adults learn to swim. Adults learning to swim faster was not really an easy option and not many had explored this area.  Keeley and I started SFT for exactly this.

February 2018 and a young adult by the name of Eid approached me to help him learn to swim faster. Without knowing his full story I was intrigued that already he was pretty quick having only learned to swim a few months earlier. In fact so intrigued I double checked with some local swim teachers to see if I was being told the full story. A rate of progress from 0 – 3km in 4 months seemed fanciful. Apparently it was true – and then Eid’s full story unfolded. Not only had he only just learned to swim, he had to overcome the harrowing journey of fleeing his home country on a flimsy boat knowing that he could not swim if something went wrong.

Most mornings Eid gets to swim practice on a bus in the depths of winter. My swim upbringing could not have been more different, and my journey made easy by supportive parents. We have been happy to support Eid as best we can writing letters to the Team GB and the IOC, asking for sponsors, swimming and racing with other groups to give him the best chance. Last year the IOC announced there would be an IOC refugee status team in Tokyo.
For more information on Eid’s story you can watch more here:

United Nations website
Ch4 reported on his progress last month
ITV London last Friday

We hope Team GB supports Eid, since no British-based refugees were put forward for Rio 2016 and the IOC refugee status team. It is not a simple process, and despite the United Nations UK division getting involved we are not sure what might happen. There are no strict qualifying times. At the moment all we have to go on is what we have learned from a few websites and the results in Rio. From Wikipedia we learn that a number of universality places are awarded to what appears to be nations not strong in swimming (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swimming_at_the_2016_Summer_Olympics_–_Qualification)

‘NOCs may also permit swimmers regardless of time (1 per gender) under a Universality place, as long as they have no swimmers reaching either the standard entry time.[1] 

From some of the early preliminary rounds Eid will get close to what some of these other people were swimming in Rio. It is unclear if the IOC ROT status team falls under this guideline?  https://www.olympic.org/rio-2016/swimming/50m-freestyle-men

Sub 30secs is our objective and with a solid winter of training I see that happening Spring 2019. Sub 28secs is possible in 12months if Eids current rate of progress is maintained. Just to confirm 12 months ago he could barely manage a length of FC. It is a remarkable rate of progress. Currently, Eid is swimming approximately 34secs for 50m.

Good luck Eid!