With the commonwealth games less than a year away many swimmers from all of the four home nations are currently training hard in an effort to make their respective national team for Manchester 2002. One such swimmer is Tara Hutt of Havant and Waterlooville SC, based near Portsmouth. Those of you familiar with the swimclub forums may have come across her before, but Tara is currently aiming to be part of the games come August next year.
Along the way, Tara has agreed to write a diary for pullbuoy, outlining her progress towards this goal and the difficulties of being a full time swimmer outside of the lottery funding scheme. By way of an introduction, pullbuoy chatted to Tara about her swimming, goals and the sport in general.
How long have you been swimming?
I started swimming at a local club at 11, but just swam to county level until I moved to Havant and Waterlooville at 15, about 7 years ago.
What’s your best swimming achievement?
Getting my first national qualifying time at the age of 18 rates pretty high. Likewise being no-where at the age of 15 (swimming 1.09 100m free) to swimming 57.2 and 26.7 at the 2000 Winter nationals. But it was also great making the England South team in May 2000 to go to Portugal
How do you rate your chances of making the Commonwealth team?
Although I would love to swim in the Commonwealth Games, my goal remains the same for the major events in 2001. Being as well prepared to as swim fast in them as I can. With the Commonwealth Games the goalposts will always be changing, I cannot control how the other swimmers will swim or qualifying times etc. so I set my own time and performance goals.
How difficult is it to train full-time?
I would not have any problem training all day every day as it is what I love. Firstly, we lack pool time which means I am actively looking for extra hours for when I need it in the future (we currently have 11½ hours per week). It is difficult because half of our pool time is early mornings and I have to weight train on my own at the Portsmouth University gym. I also have to do part-time work to ensure I can afford training fees, competitions and any training camps I may do.
What single thing would make things easier?
A winning national lottery ticket!!…Money would obviously be a big help, but another big factor would be having better resources available to our club so we could train as much as we like and all weight train together. I have only ever been on one proper training camp and feel more of these would help.
What are your goals for the rest of the year/next season?
Mainly I set myself time goals. I want to swim 56 100m free short course and 57 long course. I also want to swim 2.02 short course 2.05 long course 200m free. Apart from that to race well and enjoy my swimming.
Who is your favourite swimmer and why?
I have a lot of respect for Karen Pickering who has shown that plateaus can be overcome, and that swimmers can continue improving and racing for as long as track athletes. For the same reason Dara Torres who won gold at the Olympics at 33. But I also think Inge De Bruin and Alex Popov are great swimmers who I always want to see win.
Which is your favourite pool and why?
I love swimming at Sheffield. I get in at Ponds Forge and just feel great! I also love our home pool at Waterlooville as its where I was really introduced to training and competing.
If you had one piece of advice for an up and coming swimmer what would it be?
That your performances at a young age do not inhibit your success at a later stage. Don’t let any-one give up on you. I got my first national time at 18 years old! I remember some-one once saying there is as much chance of a 12 year old national champion becoming Olympic champion as being hit by a meteorite!! Hard work, good habits and perseverance are what you need.
Do you prefer racing or training?
I love training, which I think you have to, as you do so much. But I train to compete. I love high level competitions, nationals etc. I get very nervous in the run-up but love it once I am there!
Do you have any particular race rituals?
Just to try and relax. I never have a problem with putting enough into a race but I some-times try too hard!
How much land work do you do? What sort of exercises and how often?
I weight train three times a week on my own at the gym focusing on back, shoulders and triceps. I run to the gym on each of these occasions. I land train twice a week at the club which is weights circuits and cardiovascular /core body strength.
How much training do you do?
We only have 11½ hours in the pool, so are limited to this, but are trying to get more!!
Do you complement this with lots of time stretching? what particular stretches do you like?
I have to stretch a lot because I am prone to shoulder injuries and I get very stiff after weights work. I don’t have favourites but I work closely with a local physio who will give me specific stretches to help any problems I may have.
What are your favourite drills?
Luckily as our coach encourages it, I like slow drills and sculling work. I have a straight arm recovery on front crawl so am limited to certain drills. I do quite a bit of single arm fly and straight arm Aussie drill as this mimics the dynamic recovery of the stroke.
In the pool how much time do you spend on technique?
At this time of the season we spend a lot of time on technique. Throughout the year, our coach ensures that we don’t sacrifice our technique to swim fast. Therefore if our stroke isn’t good we have to slow down. We also do a lot of stroke holding sets.
Do you like to know what a training session is before you get in the water?
I like to know all about the season plan and phase we are in. But I don’t mind not knowing what the whole set is.
Do you ‘hate’ your coach sometimes?
Not really!! He winds me up some-times and I know I can annoy him with my constant “quest for knowledge” of swimming and taking it all to seriously sometimes!
Do you also laugh with your coach?
Yes, I think its vital to have faith in your coach and also to be friends.
Editor’s Note: A change in the nationality qualification rules by the Scottish Commonwealth Games Council meant that Tara was unable to pursue her aim of a place on the Scottish team, despite having been previously registered as a Scottish competitor.