London crawling for young Falkirk swimmers

Kayley Davidson, Charlotte McKenzie, Ian Elrick, Rebecca Murray and Julie Hunter
Kayley Davidson, Charlotte McKenzie, Ian Elrick, Rebecca Murray and Julie Hunter
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Six swimmers from Falkirk are London-bound today, hoping the streets are paved with gold... medals.

The aquatic Dick Whittingtons - Julie Hunter, Rebecca Murray, Charlotte McKenzie and Kayley Davidson will join Ian Elrick (all pictured below) and Ross Muir in the Olympic pool bidding to qualify for the summer’s event.

They’ll join huge names like Hannah Miley, Rebecca Adlington and world record holder Jemma Stofforth in the water at the purpose-built Aquatics Centre.

Not only will they be competing, warming-up and training alongside the country’s best-known swimmers in the Olympic village, they’ll also have the gaze of 5,000 spectators watching them in the water.

“They’re more used to a couple of hundred grannys and grandads,” admitted Steve Tigg, who coaches FIRST (Falkirk Integrated Swim Team).

“But everything about the week will help develop their experience of big events of this size.”

The Olympic trial is the biggest they will experience - without competing in the event itself. And not only will they come up against the other best of British for a spot in Team GB, they’ll also face some of the world’s best as they all try to taste the Olympic pool in Stratford.

“This is the first time the centre will have been used,” explained Tigg. “And as such the security will be maximum. We are all taking passports for the rigorous security checks and we have maps of the lay-out and the measures being taken to ensure we are not rushing around.

“It is an event on a major, major scale and we have our schedules all mapped out - we have to because it is so big.”

Tigg has had the team’s preparation mapped out for months in the build-up to this event, which begins on Saturday.

The team is heading south today (Thursday) after scaling down their training over the past week. It has been intense work, spending a minimum of 20 hours in the pool every week.

“Ross trains at Stirling Uni too so he has around 28 hours a week,” added Tigg.

“But we had a training camp at the south of Spain over New Year where the guys worked really hard, and probably swam between 70 and 80 km in that week.

“In the approach to the event itself it’ll be time to wind down the training intensity a little.”

Rebecca Murray and Charlotte McKenzie both took part in the Dutch Olympic selection meet - just to provide further opposition and test themselves.

“That usually happens, but this meet in London has attracted many top athletes looking to visit the new facilities, and compete against the top athletes.”

And Rebecca Murray will not only share a name with Olympic gold medallist Adlington - she could also share a training pool with her as the athletes take advantage of the £262m swim centre.

In it, the youngsters from Falkirk will truly be mixing with the biggest names of the swimming world and the 14-year-old Braes High pupil told Heraldsport: “I’ll be honoured to swim along the likes of Rebecca Adlington and my favourite - Hannah Miley.

“I had to go 9.06 for the 800m freestyle, but managed it in 9.03 to get a chance to go to London. I’m nervous, but you never know.

“It’ll be my first time in London, but the facilities look amazing - a big step up from the Commonwealth in Edinburgh and Tollcross in Glasgow.”

Rebecca Murray and her fellow Falkirk Otters will be joined by Julie Hunter, Grangemouth ASC’s only representative, and the club have wished her all the best with a £500 cheque.

“I’ll use it to buy a LZR suit for the trials,” she told The Falkirk Herald.

“It’s a specific suit designed to help you go faster. The club has helped with some funding but so have some of my other sponsors, and I’m grateful for their help.

“It’s a long trip and we’ll be there for almost a week so it does cost a lot to compete. The money is a big help and I’m hoping to take a lot from the trip and do my best,” added the Larbert High pupil.

But coach Tigg admitted: “The main thing for the team is to take experience of this ahead of Glasgow 2014.

“There’s no pressure on these guys to qualify - they’ll all have another shot at it in four years time too - for others this is the big one, so it really is a great experience to be a part of.”