Swimmer Anderson plummeting new depths in bid for Tokyo success

Sportsbeat
·4 min read
Pic: Reuters
Pic: Reuters

Leaving the Wirral will be a wrench for swimming star Freya Anderson but she believes it will help her make a big impact at next year’s Olympic Games.

The Upton-born teenager had been based at Ellesmere College where, under coach Alan Bircher, she broke through to win mixed relay bronze at the 2019 World Championships.

But the school’s 25m pool and limited gym facilities didn’t meet the double European champion’s needs and Anderson took the decision during lockdown to move to British Swimming’s High-Performance Centre in Bath.

“I'm eternally grateful to Alan and everyone at Ellesmere,” said the 19-year-old, who will look to add to the 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals won since the introduction of National Lottery funding in 1997, should she qualify for Tokyo 2020.

“When I first arrived, I was so shy. I remember my first week and I don't think I spoke to anyone, I could hardly even speak to Alan.

“Just to see how much I've grown and progressed whilst being there, it's all down to Alan and the team there.

“I’ve been there since I was 14 and it hasn’t got the best facilities, it's only got a four-lane 25-metre pool and two squat racks in the gym. I could only see a physio once a week.

“Until the Olympics were postponed, I was going to make the move to Bath after 2020, ready to start the next cycle. When the Games were postponed, my coach and I just agreed that it's probably the best thing to do.

“I’d outgrown Ellesmere a bit. I needed something new, I need to be in the senior environment that Bath has.

"That's going to be what makes the difference, being in the professional environment and having everything you need around me.

“I’ll be keen to learn from the other, older swimmers around me, to see how they go about things and hopefully that will rub off on me.”

Anderson is relocating to work with coach Dave McNulty at the University of Bath, one of two pools where UK Sport’s World Class Programme is delivered.

Having previously been based at her old school and sharing lanes with current pupils, Anderson will be one of 1,100 athletes to benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to National Lottery funding.

During lockdown, she stayed in the Wirral with family and even had an endless pool delivered to her back garden via a crane so she could continue training.

The freestyle specialist is expecting a seamless transition having been courted by McNulty for some months, the genial Geordie coach taking her on his squad’s annual training camp in Australia.

Having only made her debut at junior international level in 2016, Anderson is already being touted as a medal prospect for Tokyo and feels her new base can help her harness an unexpected extra year until the Games.

“I never believed I’d make the Olympics and it was only from maybe 2016 that I started to believe it a bit,” she said.

“The Worlds, the Commonwealths and the Europeans just gave me a bit of a confidence boost that maybe I could go to the Olympics.

"I'm not too sure what I could achieve. I've set my training goals for the next year, I've had a meeting with Dave and how I can be the best I can be.

"Because I'm still quite young, the postponement could be beneficial for me and everyone's in the same boat. You're not alone and everyone's going through the confusion.

"Standing on the podium at the Olympics would be amazing, especially after everything that’s happened during this crisis.

“But you have to work hard for that. I just want to focus on doing the best I can in training.”

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