2000 was certainly a watershed in the international swimming career of Heidi Earp. She had of course been an established international for some time previously, but it was her swims at the Olympic trials, where she erased Marie Hardiman’s old British record over 100m breastroke, and more impressively became the first British woman to record a time under 1:10 that made us all sit up and take notice. Following a, perhaps some might say, slightly (but then only slightly) below par performance at the Olympics, she certainly showed that there had been no ill effects from any negative press that the British team had received by breaking yet more British records at the Winter Short Course Nationals. pullbuoy caught up with her to get her side of the story.
You were voted pullbuoy swimmer of the year for 2000. How do you feel 2000 went for you? You must have been really pleased to break loads of British Records
2000 was a great year for me, I had just finished my A-levels and it was a year where I could really concentrate on my swimming for the first time. Education had always come first and swimming had always taken a back seat, but I move to Nottingham to train with the Nova squad and it was a success! When I began to train a lot more and race well, I just knew I could break the British Record and it just was a matter of by how much!
Do you feel that the experience of Sydney will stand you in good stead for the world championships in Fukuoka?
Being at the Olympics was wonderful, it was my first major long-course meet and it was like jumping in head first onto the international scene. It made me realise what I really want to do and how I am going to go about it.
It’s been widely said that the British team under performed in Sydney – do you have any thoughts on why this may be?
I do not really think that the swimmers under-performed at all. Just look at how many British records were broken, it was just that the whole world improved by a much greater margin!!
Were you disappointed with your swims at the Olympics?
No not at all. It was a great experience, I was only a tenth of a second off my best time in the individual plus I was in the final of the relay.
At the Olympics, Sue Rolph was very vocal in her criticism of the facilities in this country – what’s your view?
Sue has got a point, but you just make do with what you have got and luckily I train at an excellent facility in the University.
Bill Sweetenham has recently taken over as NPD; how has this affected you and other top swimmers in this country? Has there been a definite change from Deryk Snelling’s time?
Bill is great, he tells you exactly what he wants from you and speaks his mind. At the European Short-Course Championships in December, I have never been on such a motivated high spirited team, it was great.
Do you enjoy racing or training best?
Racing, you can not beat the feeling of touching that pad first.
How many times per month do you race?
It really depends, sometimes one and other times four.
Do you have any particular race rituals?
Lots!! I am a superstitious person!! For example, I have to have all of my kit ready and packed at least one day early!!
What do you think about whilst training?
I sing a lot!!
How many hours per week do you train?
Again it depends, swimming plus land training, over 20.
What would be your number one piece of advice for any up and coming swimmers? and for breastrokers particularly (my sister is a breastroker and has hit a bit of a wall in terms of times!)
Training consistently is the key. The main thing to realise is that you cant improve all the time, it is really hard when you reach a plateau, I know I have been there more than once! You just need to understand that if you keep training hard eventually your times will start coming down again. It is really good that you are taking an interest in your sister’s swimming, my brother is extremely important in my swimming career.
What sort of cycle programme do you stick to?
It really depends on how the major swimming competitions lie in the year and which ones I see as the most important to me.
Does your coach tell you all about it at the beginning of the season?
Yes, Bill Furniss, gives us all the cycles for the year with what work each week contains.
Do you like to know what the session is before you get in the water?
Yes, it gives me time to prepare throughout the day, giving me time to set goals for each set and what I think I can achieve at that time in the cycle.
How many land training sessions do you do per week and what do they consist of?
I do two medicine ball circuits each week, core strength before every morning session, and some land work each day; could be 20mins skipping, Swiss ball exercises or just a small land work circuit.
How many visualisation sessions do you have per week and what does that consist of?
It depends, on how I feel really. Mainly I just focus and aim for something I feel is important, whether it is a hard set or a gala at the weekend, or aiming for my perfect race.
Do you keep a log book?
Yes I do.
Who do you allow to see your log book?
Bill Furniss, but no one really asks to see it!!!
Does Bill Sweetenham see your log book?
No, but he knows from my coach Bill what I do anyway.
Has he come to watch you train and give help?
Yes, quite a few times.
How often do you stretch? before, after training, or both?
I stretch a lot. I was a dancer for nearly 15 years so it is important to me to feel loose.
How many other swimmers train with you?
About twenty. I train at Nova which is a county squad, so everyone trains at more or less the same level.
Do you have lots of fun and laughs with them?
Sometimes. I do not have a lot of laughs when I am really tired!
Do you ‘hate’ your coach sometimes?
Do you also laugh with your coach?
Yes, he is always coming up with some funny stories.
What do you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Depends how hungry I am. I do not have a specific diet that I stick to, just make sure I eat lots of carbohydrates, fresh fruit and vegetables etc.
What nutritional supplements do you take, if any?
Vitamin C and that’s about it unless I feel exceptionally tired or fatigued.
What do you drink from your sports bottle?
Orange squash or water.
What ‘pool tools’ do you use?
Just the normal, pullbuoy, float, paddles, fins and an ankle band.
What percentage of your session is ‘legs only’?
Depends, some sessions up to 50% others about 5%.
What are your favourite drills?
Right left both arms on Breaststroke or fists.
What are your least favourite drills?
Underwater stuff. It feels like your lungs are going to explode!!
How much of each training session do you swim on breastroke?
What’s your favourite pool and why?
It used to be Crystal Palace, as there was my first national age groups and I was number one on the programme and I made the final! Now it is Sheffield as the British records I have were set there!