Warwick Swimming and Water Polo are determined to bounce back from relegation - but the future looks bright. photo: Ruth Scanlan

Swimming against the tide

As Warwick Sport and their myriad of clubs draw their seasons to a close, this time of the year is dedicated to reflection and change.

And for Ruth Leong-Scanlan, the new women’s swimming captain, it is an opportunity to take stock after a season which unfortunately ended in relegation from the BUCS Premier Division.

But it is immediately apparent that Warwick Swimming will be returning with renewed vigour and determination after what Ruth describes as an “okay” year.

“We lost a few really big swimmers at the end of last year when they graduated or went abroad,” Ruth explains.

“It was a shame to be relegated, but we do have very stiff competition.”

To put relegation into context, fellow universities in the BUCS Premier Division are known as International Training Centres (ITCs), meaning that they receive extra funding from the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA).

Warwick simply cannot compete with their financially-blessed rivals, who boast 50-metre pools among other key privileges.

Olympic swimmers are normally plucked from this elite group, while Warwick have traditionally thrived in the second division.

But there is no doubt that Ruth, and her team-mates, have made sacrifices in order to try and compete at this elite level.

“In my first year I would be on poolside in Coventry at 5.15am four times a week before lectures before training again in the evening – my university day came in between,” says Ruth.

“It’s been a little bit easier this year – we’ve relocated to the Sports Centre, which doesn’t open until 7.15am, so we train at that time most mornings. Most of the swimmers attend gym sessions throughout the week as well.”

Next year they will be coached by Mark Branch, who swam for Great Britain…he will be overseeing rigorous changes

However, it appears that there are certain benefits to such a draining schedule – although Ruth admitted that not all of her team-mates share her enthusiasm for early mornings.

“I absolutely love it, it’s a great start to my day,” she enthused. “But quite a few of the swimmers hate it, and some of them just don’t come.

“But one thing with training so much is that we can all eat whatever we like. Ask any of the swimmers and they’ll tell you that’s one big plus point for our sport!”

A gruelling training schedule is familiar to many of the best swimmers within Warwick University.

Ruth’s first year at university was largely spent in the pool, as she trained voraciously in a bid to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic team.

And despite being eliminated at the semi-final stage of the trials, she admits that she wants to pass on the experience to her team-mates.

“To swim in the Olympic pool where everybody swam in the London 2012 Games was incredible – I absolutely loved it.

“Because we don’t have the facilities that other universities have, it will be quite difficult to get our swimmers to Olympic level – but we’re going to do everything we can.”

Warwick Swimming have been without a coach for a large proportion of this year, but next year they will be working with Mark Branch, who swam for Great Britain.

And there is no doubt that Branch will be overseeing rigorous changes in order to ensure that the swimmers maximise their potential.

“Next year we’ll definitely be bringing in a bit more technique work – that’s something we need to work on,” said Ruth.

“We need to work on our streamlining, and we’ll be bringing in stretching at the end of swimming sessions, because flexibility will really help us avoid some of the injuries we’ve been getting this year.”

This year did witness a first Varsity triumph over arch-rivals Coventry in several years, and Ruth is keen that the team do not get ahead of themselves.

“We’ve got a great team which is all really dedicated. We want to win Varsity again, as last year was the first year we’ve had Coventry on the ropes for a long time.

“Before that, they had won Varsity for several years in a row, so we can’t take anything for granted – and we won’t be.

“Hopefully we’ll get more points at BUCS than last year as well – we should be among more even competition.

“But since Mark started as coach quite a few of our team have already managed personal bests.”

The message is clear: Warwick Swimming will be pulling together to ensure that they do everything they can to win promotion back to the BUCS Premier Division.


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