THE VALE’S new international swimming sensation Tazmin Pugh has returned from the three-day Ontario Junior International Meet in Canada with another fantastic medal haul to her name.
The 15-year-old travelled to Toronto to represent Team GB and juniors (18/under) as part of British Swimming’s World Class Podium Potential programme and she again proved why she is rated so highly as she won four bronze medals among a total of 24 for the GB team.
Having spent her formative years at Bowbrook House School in Peopleton and Abbey Park Middle School in Pershore, Pugh now races for the renowned Ellesmere College Titans team under the leadership of head coach Alan Bircher, himself a former GB international champion swimmer.
Once again the GB team of eight girls and four boys was massively successful against some of the best Canada and North America had to offer as they returned home with four gold, ten silver and ten bronze medals.
In her first event Pugh, who will now enjoy a Christmas break from her training facility at the Shropshire-based club, set the ball rolling in the 100m butterfly by breaking Jemma Lowe’s long-standing British and English junior record (under 16) set in Shanghai in 2005.
This is Pugh’s fourth British record since August and her 16th regional record this year.
She recorded 58:90 in taking bronze and propelling herself to first in the European rankings.
Her team-mate Laura Stephens, 16, who trains at Plymouth Leander, took silver in 58:42 and Canadian star Penny Oleksiak, 15, won gold in 58:20.
The second day would prove to be tough with Pugh having to compete in the 200m fly and 400m freestyle in both the heats and also most likely the evening’s A finals.
However, in the 200m fly she was up to the challenge and impressed in a keenly contested race (2:08.99) in which she won bronze behind Canadian Oleksiak (gold, 2:08.06) and Stephens (2:08.64).
In the following 400m freestyle Pugh was equally impressive in breaking her own regional record, once again taking bronze with 4:09.30.
On the third and final day of the meet the challenges for Pugh just kept coming.
Having qualified for the finals of the 200m backstroke, she had then to race in the fastest heat of the 800m freestyle in the same finals session in the evening.
It was somewhat of a pleasant surprise she achieved another lifetime best with 8:38.71 and claimed her fourth bronze for the British team with her third regional record of the meet.
Pugh was back in the pool competing only 20 minutes later and, although only a second outside her 200m backstroke personal best, it was not enough for a clean sweep of medals as she clocked a tired 2:10.35.
Pugh finished her fourth international meet of the year having broken her fourth British junior record and she also now holds sixteen West Midlands records, which is about a third of all the individual regional junior records available.
The faith of British Swimming keeps coming Pugh’s way as she has now received her selection letter for two more Team GB appearances.
The first is in Houston in Texas, USA, and from there she will head directly to Belgium to compete in the Flanders Cup for an event which has been used in recent years as preparation for the Olympics and World and European Junior Championships.