At the age of only 19, Rebecca Cooke has already become something of a fixture on the GB and English national teams since her first senior international appearance, way back at the 1998 European Short Course, competing at the Sydney Olympics and 2001 world championships, amongst a host of European championships. Since then she has notched up 4 British records and two short course Commonwealth records, along with silver and bronze at the 200 short course European championships. Through this period, Rebecca’s 800m time has steadily improved, despite having to juggle the demands of international swimming with those of sixth form, and she is closing in on Sarah Hardcastle’s 16 year old British 800m long course record.
You’re one of the younger members of the team here this week, have you been able to get any good advice from the more senior members of the squad?
Yeah, I think having the senior members around really helps as they have had a lot more experience than myself. I’ve been to one Olympics, but in terms of the commonwealth games I’ve had no experience, so I think it’s good to have that sort of experience here and on the team, definitely.
You trained for the Sydney Olympics and last year’s world championships whilst studying for your A-levels, how difficult was that?
It was really hard – looking back now I’m on a year out, I really don’t know how I did it. It was just a matter of organising my time and making sure I left time for both swimming and work
Were you pleased with you swims at the Commonwealth trials?
I was reasonably pleased, I would have liked to do a PB in the 800 free though. I swam PBs in the 400 free and 400IM, but I would maybe have liked to have swum a PB in the 800 as well.
Which event do you prefer?
I prefer the 800 because that’s my pet event and the one I have always had my success in and I enjoy the 400 IM because it’s less of a pressure event and I can relax and enjoy it a bit more, so I think probably the 800 and 400IM are my favourite events
So are you going to stick with the freestyle, or are you going to start doing more work on your IM?
Well I do a lot of IM work in training anyway, to get away from freestyle; it gets a bit boring doing freestyle all the time, so I do a lot of IM work to vary my training routine, so I don’t think I’ll start doing any more
You recently moved to Glasgow with your coach Stephen Hill. Was it a hard decision to make?
Not particularly, I’d just finished my A-levels and I was taking a gap year anyway, so it was a choice of either staying in Reading or moving to Glasgow with Steve, so I thought I’d give it a go for a year and I think that I’ll stay up there because I really enjoy it
Does having long course facilities help?
I swim in the long course facilities at Tollcross, I didn’t really swim long course at all at Reading so that’s really helped my training
Does it help having someone like Holly Fox (who has also moved to Glasgow) training with you?
It does definitely help, it’s someone else there in the morning when you’re feeling tired, to pick you up and keep you motivated.
Have you started to see better results with more long course work?
I’m hoping as the year progresses I’ll see improvements in my times off the back of the long course work and I’m already seeing that in the 400 free and IM, but I’m hoping that I’ll improve my 800m times moving into the Commonwealths
What’s your top tip for a distance swimmer?
Just try and keep going the whole way through the race. Don’t let your mind wander; try and concentrate on your race or concentrate on a certain aspect of your stroke throughout or else you’ll just lose it. Oh and don’t lose count!
Losing count is easy to do! Do you use the counting boards?
I do occasionally. Recently I’ve got better at counting myself, especially long course when its easier to count, but sometimes I can’t see them, usually I can, but if it’s a small board I can’t. I do usually check when I’ve got 4 lengths to go just in case I’ve messed up!
If you had one piece of advice for an up and coming swimmer what would it be?
Train hard. There’s no substitute for that. Also try to keep focussed, even if you swim badly. Just focus on your goals even if you are going through a bad patch, just keep trying and training hard and it will work out
Everyone has bad swims at one time or another – how do you deal with them? Do you try and take positives from a swim or just move on?
I initially forget about it, maybe for a day or two but then look back and take positives form the swim, such as, “I did work my turns hard” or “my start and first 200 was good” but you need to move on after a bad swim, you can’t dwell on it
Finally What’s your favourite drill?
I probably don’t do as much drill as I should! My favourite drill is catch up, because you can work your stroke length.