Perhaps the best taper is no swimming at all.
Long mused as a plausible strategy by coaches, English breaststroker Imogen Clark gave a powerful data-point in its favor on Tuesday morning in Rome, Italy.
Clark cleared isolation from COVID-19 safety protocols on Monday, and on Tuesday morning, she raced to a 30.18 prelims swim in the 50 breaststroke, her best event. That time was the fastest she has ever been in the heats of an event, and is within two tenths of her British Record of 30.02 that was set at the Commonwealth Games just a few weeks ago.
It is the fourth-fastest swim of her career as well.
Clark, who trains with Derventio Excel, was the 2018 European silver medalist in the event. She also won silver at the Commonwealth Games earlier this month. Those are her only two major senior international medals.
Clark says that she was locked in her hotel room for 7 days, and didn’t swim at all during that period. “Even on the last day (Monday), I had to wait for my PCR results to come back and to be negative before leaving my room,” she told SwimSwam.
Clark herself was a last-minute addition to the British team this week after her performance at the Commonwealth Games. She and Holly Hibbott were added to the squad when several others pulled out post-Birmingham. Clark didn’t swim at the World Championships in June, where the 50 meter races were selected by the 100 meter breaststroke standings. Clark wasn’t chosen in the 100 meter race, so she wasn’t able to swim the 50 meter race either.
Clark was scheduled to swim the 100 breaststroke earlier this week (she entered as the 14th seed), but scratched that race while in isolation. She still has a likely spot, at least in prelims, in the women’s 400 medley relay waiting for her to conclude the meet on Wednesday.
Great Britain has never won the 50 breaststroke at the European Championships. In fact, all five of their medals in history (including Clark’s 2018 swim) are silver.
The field this week is deep, featuring the defending European Champion Benedetta Pilato, the defending World Cahmpion Ruta Meilutyte, and neither of them were the top performer in prelims (Italy’s Arianna Castiglioni in 29.91).