Britain’s swimming performances in Glasgow were exciting, but, says Mark Foster, now it’s time to deal with the step up from good to great.
Speaking at the launch of his stint as City Index’s Celebrity Trader, where he will look to raise money for charity by playing the financial markets, Foster was upbeat about the results at the Commonwealth Games. “It was very exciting on lots of levels, the biggest one being the performance from the team” he said “Thinking about the home nations as one against Australia, I think we gave them a run for their money and the performances from some of the swimmers were phenomenal.”
But high standards bring with them high expectations and Foster was under no illusions as to what that means for what is, for the most part, a young team.
“We’ve now got maybe 15 swimmers who can win Olympic medals based on those performances, but it’s one thing being good, it’s how you deal with being great and we’ve got a lot of great swimmers now.
“Those guys will walk on poolside and they’ll be known by all their rivals. They’re now going to be shot at by other people instead of being the ones who were shooting at the top and it’s about how they deal with that.”
One of those swimmers is Scotland’s Ross Murdoch who currently heads the world rankings after posting the third quickest time in history to win the 200m breaststroke on the opening night of competition.
“That blew me away” says Foster, “It was a bit like Chad le Clos beating Michael helps at the Olympics; I don’t think he thought he was going to beat Michael Jamieson. I think he thought he had a chance of coming second and then when he touched the wall and saw what time he did I think he had his breath taken away.”
Murdoch was one of a new generation of swimmers making their way into the world class bracket in Glasgow and as their numbers swell it can only be cause for optimism according to Foster.
“It’s about the culture, when you train around the best people in the world, you realise that they are just like you and just work hard. They’re talented, but they work hard, and I think that you just jump in day in and day out and train with those people and take it for granted, and then you stand on the block and you realise that you can do it as well; I think that gives all of them a huge amount of confidence”
But a culture of excellence can only take a team so far and Foster was quick to give credit to those steering the ship at pools all over the country.
“One of the reasons that all of these guys are doing well is that we have some terrific coaching now.” he acknowledges. “We’ve always had good talented swimmers but we haven’t got them with the right coaches and I think with James Gibson with Fran, Adam, Liam – he’s a great sprint coach. Jon Rudd is doing great work with Ben Proud – I’d say get some more swimmers down to him – Dave McNulty, with all those guys coming out of Bath and Mel Marshall, she knows what she’s doing; she’s been there and done it. I think it’s really exciting as we’ve never had so many good coaches.”
One mention of Ben Proud and the mood shifts. Having spent many years at the vanguard of British sprinting Foster is delighted that a new name has taken on the mantle of the fastest man in Britain. Indeed when asked for his highlight of the week, the 19 years old is his immediate answer.
“Ben Proud, without a shadow of a doubt. We’re a nation of middle distance swimmers, we don’t have sprinters, so it’s nice that someone’s now sort of stepped in to my shoes, and I think has more than filled them” he says. “At 19 years of age, he’s going to get, hopefully not too much bigger, but stronger, he’s going to get more experience and he’ll go faster and I think it’s really, really exciting to see what he can do.
“22.9 on fly was mind blowing, that would medal at any major championship. And the freestyle 21.7 – that’s a huge jump this year, probably 0.4 of a second. If he can drop another 0.2 next year that’s a time that can win a medal at an Olympic Games or a world championships.”
And Foster would be keen to lend his knowledge if it can help Proud’s development.
“I’d like to help him out if I can, not coach him, but if I can help nurture him and just be involved that would be great. If you can be around people who’ve done it, and you can gain experience through other people’s mistakes, if you like, or the things that have gone right that’s got to help.”
Proud’s 50 fly victory was one of 14 British performances in Glasgow that would have been good enough for a podium place at last year’s world championships, but is it a different prospect delivering those times at a world championship instead of at a Commonwealth Games? Foster doesn’t think so.
“Technically I always say one race is like another race – whether it’s a club championships, national championship or world championship. They should be just another race. There is an element of pressure that goes with it, but it’s how you deal with that – I think emotionally it can be a bit more draining but there’s no reason why they can’t do it at that level.”
“We’ll see how they get on at Europeans and then at Worlds next year, but the mind is a very powerful thing; if they can work on that and have that mind set of ‘it’s another race’, and about being the best that you can be – If you have that sort of attitude, you can start being relaxed and the results will come.”
For his city trading exploits, Mark has chosen to raise money for Level Water, the charity that seeks to get disabled kids swimming, describing their work as “wonderful”. Level Water is a charity committed to getting disabled kids swimming, through the provision of 1-to-1 lessons. These are only a means, not the end, with the aim being that the children attain the water skills to join mainstream classes.
Banner image courtesy GBSwimstars