PERSHORE’S Tazmin Pugh has revealed her delight at being selected for British Swimming’s 2016 Podium Potential performance squad.
As reported by the Observer last week, the highly talented 15-year-old has been rewarded for her stupendous achievements at home and abroad and she will now be just one level below Podium squad stars including English world-beaters Adam Peaty, Liam Tancock, Chris Walker-Hebborn, Fran Halsall and Siobhan-Marie O’Connor.
As one of the swimmers selected on to the World Class programmes, Ellesmere College Titans star Pugh is eligible to receive advanced training camp and competition opportunities, access to world-class sports science and medicine services and enhanced support from British Swimming performance staff and National Institute of Sport programmes across the country.
Athletes will also receive targeted financial assistance from UK Sport through the World Class Performance Programme’s Athlete Personal Award (APA).
Podium level support identifies athletes who have the potential to medal at Rio 2016, while Podium Potential support marks a longer-term investment by supporting athletes who are considered to have a greater chance of medalling at Tokyo 2020.
Former Pershore SC member Pugh, who will still have the guidance of her highly regarded mentor and head coach at Ellesmere Alan Bircher – himself a world and European medallist – is thrilled with her selection.
She said: “It is a really good confidence boost knowing my swimming is being recognised and this will make slight differences to my training as I have to really make sure I keep up my skills so I hopefully get some more recognition, which will allow more amazing opportunities like Samoa (2015 Commonwealth Youth Games).
“It does make me feel good knowing I am one step closer to becoming one of those big names. One of my main swimming idols is Mireia Belmonte (double London 2012 silver medallist) as she also swims the events I swim and, after racing her in Luxembourg, it has given me more drive to become a main rival to big names like her and to hopefully be as good or if not better than her one day.”
In Samoa Pugh won six medals in what was the highlight of a special year and soon afterwards she enjoyed more significant success at the English Schools’ Swimming Association (ESSA) Inter-Divisional Short Course Championships (seniors) at City of Leeds Swimming Club when representing the West Midlands.
Up against older swimmers in the multi-age 15/16/17-year group, Pugh won the 100m fly in a new Regional Junior and ESSA record time of 1:00.78 to remain first in the UK rankings and the second quickest of all time for a 15-year-old, missing the British record by just 0.2 of a second.
In the 200m fly Pugh led from the start and increased her dominance throughout to win by 4.5 seconds in another new Regional Junior and second ESSA record time of 2:10.22 to sit number one in the UK and the fastest of all time for a 15-year-old.
She is also ranked number one in Europe for the 200m fly (Short Course) for 15/16-year-olds by nearly one second.
Former Pershore schoolgirl Pugh added: “In Samoa I wasn’t expecting anything special as I had been training at home and had to do a double taper so wasn’t in great fitness, so getting the six medals I got was pleasing and the experience was unforgettable.
“Hopefully I will get to race the girls again soon in other meets around the world.
“In Leeds, again I wasn’t expecting anything special as I was in hard training, so getting personal bests and close to British records was surprising and I know what I have to do to improve and get to where I want to be by the time Glasgow British Olympic trials come.”
Now Pugh must put future European and World Junior Championships at the top of her agenda even if it means forgoing Level 1 Open Meets, County and Regional Championships.
This elite group of Podium Potential swimmers will also be trying to push the more established British stars to their best ever performances in trying themselves for selection to the 2016 Rio Olympics, although the younger ones will have their eyes firmly set on the following Tokyo Olympics in 2020, by which time those on Podium Potential should be reaching their prime.
Most recently, Pugh’s time of 2:15.56 was the second best time ever when swimming in the next age up in the women’s open 200m individual medley for Ellesmere College Titans in the National Arena Swimming League on her way to winning two individual and two relay events.
In a further boost, Pugh this week received an official invite from British Swimming to represent Team GB at the Ontario Junior International Meet in Toronto, Canada, between December 2-7.
Her team-mate, 17-year-old Chloe Golding from Evesham, also won her individual women’s open 100m backstroke (1:01.11) event and her two relays at the same event, where their club went on to take second place with 22 wins on 299 points in the Premier Division in the toughest region in the country.