VALE swimmer Tazmin Pugh clinched a staggering seven gold medals from as many events at the British Summer Championships and now sits in first place in the UK age group rankings in 11 long and short course events.
The new form of the combined British Summer Championships (BSC), previously known under separate competitions as the National Age Groups, Youth and Senior Championships, featured six days of mind-blowing performances by Britain’s best swimmers.
To be invited to this premier event at Ponds Forge in Sheffield, swimmers have to be in the top 24 for each event in Great Britain. Those below this level ranked 25-50 and bringing in a slightly lower age level, starting at 12, take part in their own English, Welsh or Scottish Home Nations Championships the following week.
For the inaugural premier BSC competition Pugh, together with nine others from her club Ellesmere College Titans, had qualified.
Pugh, aged 15, had decided to enter just seven of the ten events she had qualified for, as well as a 3km National Open Water Championships at the conclusion of the week-long pool championships.
In her first event, the 50m butterfly, Pugh qualified from the heats in first place for the evening finals with a new British record for 15-year-olds of 27.35.
Going even quicker in the finals and taking gold, she broke the record again with 27.22 to rise to seventh best in Europe.
Pugh was pleased to discover she was the second fastest in the pool of all ages, including the age of 19 and above.
On day two Pugh competed in the 100m fly and 800m freestyle. Qualifying easily for the 100m fly finals in first place, Pugh then discovered due to a couple of withdrawals she was now in the 800m to be competed for in the finals session, thereby making the 100m fly somewhat tougher.
In the end though Pugh not only took gold in both the 800m freestyle (8:44.30) – setting a new regional record as she beat second place by over 14 seconds (fifth in Europe) – but she also became British champion in the 100m fly (1:00.43) as she clinched a third gold of the championships.
On the Friday Pugh qualified over six seconds quicker than her competition for the finals of the 200m fly and then went on to do something similar in the 200m backstroke (2:13.58) – this time four seconds quicker and sixth best in Europe.
Again, to take both titles during the evening’s finals would be difficult, but once again she rose to the challenge to take her fourth and fifth British Championship titles with delight firmly etched on her race face.
On the penultimate day of pool competition in the Steel City, Pugh once again amazed onlookers by the ease of her victory in the heats of the 400m individual medley (IM) as she cruised to a time of 4:57.67.
In the finals she progressed this to a new regional record time of 4:51.70 as she broke her own which she had set at the British Championships Junior Trials in April, taking her to ninth in Europe.
This marked her sixth National Championship title and one or two of the interested parties started to look up the records to see if this had ever been achieved before.
The final day saw Pugh tackling one her stiffest contests yet in the 400m freestyle as she was not the fastest going into the heats. Once again this did not faze her, with Pugh making it through the heats in first place for her age group with a new PB of 4:19.71 and in fact she was third fastest in the pool of all ages, including all the University girls present of 19 and over.
She set about her 400m freestyle final looking cool, calm and collected and allowed the girl in lane five to gain half a body length lead over the first 75m.
At the turn, however, Pugh turned on the after-burners to take the lead and she stretched it out further over the remainder of the distance to gain her seventh gold medal and British Age title of the championships, climbing to fifth in Europe for this event.
It is not confirmed, but this clean sweep of seven individual British Championships age titles is possibly an unprecedented achievement in British Swimming.
The following day Pugh competed in her first ever open water event – the Amateur Swimming Association Open Water Championships – and won a bronze medal over the 3km distance.
Having had a week off, Pugh begins preparations for the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa where she will be representing England in early September.