So, that’s it – the Long Course Championships are over for another year!
As we reflect on what has been a brilliant weekend of top quality university sport, it’s impossible to ignore what a weekend it’s been for the UoB swimming team. Personal bests were eclipsed, club records shattered, and the target of a gold medal was fantastically achieved by Charlotte Reid.
Although held in high regard throughout the university swimming community, even the most optimistic of Birmingham supporters would have struggled to envisage a weekend as successful as the one Burn FM Sport were lucky enough to witness at Ponds Forge in Sheffield.
Their club unity overwhelmingly apparent from the beginning, UoB swimmers fought magnificently in the pool, often more than matching their ITC counterparts. Their superb performances in the heats meant that the wonderfully vocal supporters had eleven finals to look forward to on Sunday, as well as the reward of ‘loudest roar’ that their tireless support deserved.
When Sunday arrived, Birmingham grabbed it with both hands and dunked it in the deep end.
You couldn’t take your eyes away from the pools without hearing about another breath-taking performance; the seven PB’s that fell on the Saturday alone and the sheer number of Club records that were broken over the weekend speak for themselves. As the good news continued to flow in, so did the points – the Birmingham swimmers were in dream land. Kristina Paige achieved a new PB in the 100m Freestyle, as did Calum MacGregor in the Men’s Backstroke equivalent. Victoria Lim similarly eclipsed her own previous strongest time, swimming brilliantly in the 200m Butterfly, whilst the Men’s 400m Relay team, spearheaded by the strong swimming of Joe Marsh, did so too.
There were many more fantastic achievements, with each member of the team doing absolutely everything to ensure an overwhelmingly positive weekend for Birmingham – none more so than Charlotte Reid. Her gold medal in the Women’s 50m Backstroke epitomised the team’s excellent performance at the Nationals, and gave Birmingham the physical confirmation that all their hard work prior to the competition had paid off.
Beyond the Birmingham swimmers there was great swimming to watch as well from a whole host of future international stars. No less than six BUCS records were smashed, with a particular stand out performance coming from University of St. Mark and St. Johns’ Ben Proud who claimed three himself over the weekend, coming within 1.7 seconds of the British record for the 50m Butterfly. Along side this he became one of only 3 men in the world this year to go sub-23 seconds in the 50m Freestyle, quite the achievement and thrilling to watch.
As the pool emptied for another year, and final tallies began to creep in, Birmingham found themselves with a seventh place finish, one place above last year, with a magnificent 116 points – the highest score from a non-International Training Centre university.
Coach Gary Humpage struggled to contain his pride, praising the ‘whole team’ and stating that ‘the real reward is the team spirit we’ve shown’. Men’s Team captain Guy Giles echoed this view, paying homage to the manner in which the team ‘came together’, and highlighting how the unity within the club allowed ‘a team spirit second to none, allowing everybody to swim off each other’s success’.
With a dazzling weekend for the UoB Swimming team finally over, Burn FM Sport already had one eye on next year’s competition. Asking Gary Humpage what he was looking for next year, he simply smiled and said ‘two gold medals’.
If this team continues to perform at the level which they have over the past couple of days, the coach may just feel that they are capable of much, much more.
Niall Flynn & Joe McDowell