LOCAL swimming ace Tazmin Pugh has been selected to represent England in the fifth Commonwealth Youth Games over 14,000 miles away in Samoa in the South Pacific Islands.
The Games come around every four years and have become the proving ground for athletes who have their eyes set on the next full 2018 Commonwealth Games and beyond.
Over 1,000 athletes aged between 14 and 18 will be taking part, invited from all of the present Commonwealth nations and territories. The English team will be sending six girls and six boys aged 15-18 so, although 15-year-old Pugh will be one of the youngest athletes, she has obviously impressed the selectors with her performances in Luxembourg and Italy in recent months where from eight events she came away with five gold and three silver medals in addition to breaking 15 regional records in the last six months.
This rich vein of form, however, does not lessen the task now looming before Pugh, who has to compete against not only older girls but the all-conquering teams from Australia (the swimmers having won 45 golds in the previous four Games) as well as New Zealand and South Africa.
Selectors will be hoping Pugh and other younger members of the team will absorb and learn from the experience of being part of a multi-sport Games as in the full Senior Commonwealth and recent European and Olympic Games.
Pugh will first fly out to New Zealand for a week-long conditioning and training camp towards the end of August and then on to Samoa for the opening ceremony on September 5, with the event finishing a week later on September 11.
Former Pershore Swimming Club star Pugh has been told she will be competing in the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly and the 200m and 400m individual medleys and no doubt a few medley relay events.
The excited youngster said: “I am overjoyed at the honour of representing my country again, especially after the disappointment of just missing out on European Games (Baku) selection.
“After discussion with my Ellesmere College coach Alan Bircher, the Commonwealth Youth Games was our next goal. It will be a great opportunity to experience the beautiful Samoan group of ten islands and help my sporting career massively by competing against some of the best swimmers in the world.”
Sponsors are now beginning to line up to offer support, with Tewkesbury-based Aquatots the latest to help out. With race costumes costing £300, entry fees per competition £100 and accommodation and food, etc, £350 for the British Championships alone, considerably more support from a major sponsor is needed.
The £300 required as a contribution for the week-long holding camp in New Zealand has been kindly donated by her school which, even though running five different sporting academies, continues to support her wholeheartedly and has recognised her success this season by awarding her with a special prize on speech day with ‘Excellence in a Single Sport’ and ‘Elite Spotsperson of the Year’ awards.
This, together with the Joanna Brown Trust based in Malvern, a few kind-hearted local donors and Pershore Swimming Club’s help, means Pugh should be able to continue with her progress.