Bill Sweetenham is not one to offer praise lightly so when describes a British swimming team’s performance as “outstanding” you know they have achieved something special. That was the National Performance Director’s verdict on Britain’s junior swimmers at the European Youth Olympic Festival who collected a further two gold, including a superb win for the boys medley relay team and a second title for Stacey Tadd, one silver and three bronze medals on the final day of competition. The final flourish brought their overall tally for the meet to 17 and secured third place in the swimming medal table, one of Britain’s best ever performances at this level.
“I’m delighted with the performance and the athletes have been outstanding.” Sweetenham said. “It’s very important to get swimmers competing against international competition, especially as part of a larger team as we had here, and it teaches some very important lessons for the future. I think the whole team has done a great job this week and achieved an outstanding result.”
Bath University’s Stacey Tadd confirmed herself as the team’s top performer as she took her second gold medal of the week, adding the 100m breaststroke title to her earlier gold in the 200m event and lowering her lifetime best over the shorter distance by almost two seconds in the process.
“I thought I might swim some small personal bests but I never thought I would come away from here with two golds and a British Junior Record” an overwhelmed Tadd said after her successes. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the rest of the team and it’s just been a great week.”
The second British title of the day came in the last event of the competition as the boys medley relay team of Scott Houston, Mark Branch, Michael Rock and Martin Handley set a Championship Record of 3:50.70, almost three seconds ahead of their nearest rivals, with Rock’s fly leg particularly impressive.
Rebecca Adlington added her second silver medal of the competition as she took the runners up spot in the 800m freestyle. Her time of 8:56.61 represented a three second improvement on her best but the Durham swimmer was barely satisfied with the performance, which brought her home just behind the Russian Anastasia Ivanenko.
“I’d hoped to swim a bit faster because my 400m silver gave me loads of confidence but it was still a PB. The race went exactly to plan as I went out in the time I’d aimed for and came home with the medal.”
Bronze medals were won by Max Underhay, who improved his lifetime best for the 400m Individual Medley by over 8 seconds, Scott Houston, who added bronze in the 100m backstroke to his third place in the 200m event, and the girls medley relay team of Hollie O’Connor, Stacey Tadd, Charlotte Wright and Francesca Halsall.
Underhay was particularly amazed with his performance in the final. “I swam a best time in the heat and I thought that was as fast as I was going to go, so I was really happy with the final result. I went out quite quick compared to normal, but it didn’t feel any different and I still had a strong freestyle leg. Based on my ranking I didn’t really expect to get anything so to win a medal was a nice surprise”
Head coach Paul du Feu was understandably elated with what his charges had achieved during the week “It’s been a really enjoyable week. The team has got stronger throughout, the atmosphere has been great and the swimmers really believed in what they could do.”
“We obviously had a number of swimmers who we expected to win medals and they did just that, but lots of others who we didn’t expect to win stepped up and took podium places as well, which was fantastic.”
Team Manager Helen Slatter, herself a three time Olympian, echoed those sentiments and was delighted with the professionalism the young team had shown “The team were great all week and they’ve done a really good job to surpass the achievement from two years ago.”
The performance ensured Britain’s third place in the medal table, well ahead of Italy in fourth and being beaten only by Hungary and Russia.
“I think that the medal table placing shows we are moving forward in age group swimming in Europe. It’s good that we’re moving in the right direction but the work can’t stop now.” National Youth Coach John Atkinson commented. “I’m very pleased with the medal haul and it was great to finish off with relay medals at the end.”
“The team as a whole have done very well, but of course particular credit has to go to Stacey Tadd and Michael Rock for their individual gold medals. To come away from a European level meet with a gold medal is a great achievement.”
Stacey Tadd, University of Bath (100m, 200m Breaststroke)
Michael Rock, Everton SC (100m Butterfly)
Boys Medley Relay Team – Scott Houston (REN 96), Mark Branch (North Ayrshire), Michael Rock (Everton SC) and Martin Handley (Burnley)
Rebecca Adlington, Nova Centurion (400m, 800m Freestyle)
Julie Gould, Guildford City (400m Individual Medley)
Mark Branch, North Ayrshire (200m Breaststroke)
Chris Alderton, Durham Aquatics (1500m freestyle)
Francesca Halsall, City of Liverpool (50m, 100m freestyle)
Julie Gould, Guildford City (200m Individual Medley)
Simon le Couilliard, Jersey Tigers (200m Butterfly)
Scott Houston, REN 96 (100m, 200m Backstroke),
Max Underhay, Portsmouth Northsea (400m Individual Medley)
Girls Medley Team – Hollie O’Connor (Hull), Stacey Tadd (University of Bath), Charlotte Wright (Kingston Royals) and Francesca Halsall (City of Liverpool)
G S B
1. Hungary 10 7 5
2. Russia 8 4 6
3. Great Britain 4 5 8
4. Italy 3 3 3
5. Portugal 2 0 1