IN WHAT is generally regarded as one of the most important European meets of the early part of the year, two local swimmers from the Vale – Tazmin Pugh (15) and Chloe Golding (16) – were selected as part of the West Midlands team to join forces with the swimming elite from over 25 of the top swimming countries in Europe as well as from as far afield as Bolivia, Egypt and Israel.
The three-day 17th ‘Euro Meet’ Luxembourg attracted 861 swimmers across a mammoth 3,459 events.
With the meet starting with the 400m individual medley (IM), Pugh was in action immediately, taking ‘Junior’ gold for those born in 1999 and 2000. It was even more impressive with Pugh being in the younger of the double age group.
In the following event swimmers would be battling hard, not only to take age group medals, but make the ‘Open Finals’ to be swum during the following evening’s session in the 200m butterfly.
Once again Pugh put in a stunning performance to take Junior gold with 2:14.98, breaking one of the oldest West Midlands Junior (WMJnr under 16) records which has stood since 1997 and qualifying sixth for the finals alongside the world short course (25m pools) champion, 24-year-old Mireia Belmonte.
In that ‘A’ final Pugh went on to seal her sixth place, swimming to an even faster time (2:14.25) and breaking her own new ‘WMJnr’ record as well as discovering it was the seventh fastest of all time by a 15-year-old in the UK having celebrated that birthday only a few weeks prior, so she has a clear 11 months to better it.
It also marked setting her first qualifying standard for the inaugural European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, in June to which Great Britain will be sending a small team of girls born in 99/00 and boys born in 97/98, chosen from the British Championships/Trials in April and having reached the qualifying standard.
Golding started her swims on the second day in her favoured backstroke with the 100m distance, racing to 1:05.50, whilst Pugh took Junior silver, going 1:06.90, which meant both made the ‘B’ final.
In that final Golding (1:04.48) went on to win even despite being in the younger age group in the open section, but Pugh was unable to improve on her ninth placing for the juniors.
On the final day of competition Pugh was in action immediately in the 400m freestyle, narrowly missing out on a new personal best with 4:27.24 in coming sixth, whilst in the following event she swam to 31.25 (16th) in the ‘Open’ heats.
Golding went on to take fifth place in the 50m backstroke ‘B’ final with 31.24.
This left Pugh to see if she could reach the finals in the 100m butterfly. Pugh did just that by taking Junior gold, along the way succeeding in reaching her second ‘A’ finals, being seeded sixth with a PB of 1.02.39 and taking a silver medal in the Juniors.
In the ‘A’ final Pugh swam superbly, climbing to fifth place with yet another PB of 1:01.60 and beating world short course Spanish champion – the 24-year-old Belmonte – into seventh place. Once again the time is the seventh best of all time by a 15-year-old in the UK.
Listing just the top ten from their best individual FINA points score – a system equated and based on age, stroke and distance – from all the entries, Pugh came in ninth place, winning two golds and two silvers in her first ever international selection.
Together with four other Ellesmere College Titans club-mates, they raced to ten finals and 11 medals out of the total of just over 20 for the whole of the 24 members of the West Midlands squad and they have proved their head coach’s programmes are second to none.
On her return, Pugh learnt of her invite to join the England Junior Team for a full international meet in Moscow in May.
She will be competing primarily in the fly events for England, but may enter up to three more competing in the category for those born in the year 2000 and will be joined by one of her club-mates Ellinor Southward (2001 age group) from Ellesmere Titans and several other from the recent West Midlands team in Luxembourg.
Ellesmere College Titans head coach Alan Bircher said: “Titans have shown some real class this past weekend in international waters. It takes a lot to make the switch from the normal surrounds to go abroad, eat different foods and race international and world record holders.
“Tazmin has put herself in the shop window this past weekend with trials for more junior international selection fast approaching.”