In one of our recent Swimming From Home Talk Show episodes, Coleman Hodges spoke with British freestyler Anna Hopkin about the whirlwind she went through in the month of March as she went back home to the UK after the cancellation of the NCAA Championships.
Hopkin, who was competing as a senior with the University of Arkansas, had a plan in place to move to the Loughborough National Centre and train with coach Mel Marshall after she finished things up with the Razorbacks. But after NCAAs were called off due to the coronavirus, that was expedited.
“Once I graduated if things had gone well and I had made the Olympic team, the plan after that was to train at Loughborough at the National Centre,” Hopkin said via video interview. “That was always the plan after Arkansas.
“Now my permanent base will be in Loughborough.”
Once the NCAA Championships were cancelled on March 11, she quickly flew home and immediately got into training with Marshall’s group. The British Olympic Trials, which were officially cancelled on March 17, were originally scheduled to run three weeks after NCAAs.
It was only shortly after arriving that they jumped right into a time trial with facility closures likely on the horizon.
“I had only just got back, and all the travel and stuff, but it was kind of like, ‘We’ve got to get some times in before all the pools shut down’,” she said. “It could be my potential last race of the season.”
The 23-year-old had been on fire throughout the college season, ranking third, second and fourth in the country in the 50, 100 and 200 free prior to NCAAs.
That form shined through in her time trial swim, going 53.3, just one-tenth off her best time set at last summer’s World Championships (53.21). For reference, it took 53.31 to qualify for the Worlds final last summer (Hopkin placed 13th after qualifying third out of the prelims).
Hopkin had become familiar with Marshall and her coaching style through numerous National Team training camps and eventually decided that’s where she would like to train permanently.
“I’ve got to know Mel quite well over the past few years, and it’s kind of worked out that I’ve been in her assigned coaching group when we’ve been on the teams,” said Hopkin. “So Commonwealth Games was the first time that I worked with her, and then I was in her group again at Europeans just a few months later, and then Worlds last year.
“So I’ve got used to training with her, and we’ve gone on training camp-type things before the competitions, and I’d been training with her, so there’s been a lot of snippets where I’ve spent a lot time with her. And I’ve really enjoyed her way of coaching, and I’ve got to know the members of her group quite well.”
Hopkin says Marshall and her coach at Arkansas, former British swimmer Neil Harper, have been in contact so the change in training environment is an easy adjustment.
“(Mel) and Neil have spoken quite a lot and they have quite a similar method of coaching,” said Hopkin. “So I feel like the transition from Neil’s coaching to Mel’s coaching will be quite smooth.”
While she acknowledges it will be a big change, Hopkin is looking forward to having a bit more of an individual program to follow.
“It’s quite a small group, there’s probably only nine of us in the group,” she said. “Which is quite different to what I had in Arkansas, but in a way, it’s quite nice because there’s a lot more 1-on-1 time with Mel. So I guess the program is going to be a bit more tailored towards each person.”