With several key members of Great Britain’s Olympic roster hailing from Stirling University, including breaststrokers Craig Benson and Ross Murdoch, along with freestyle specialist Robbie Renwick, the talent hotbed’s location is gaining traction. With the squad’s success, other athletes are beginning to take an interest, as is the case with 18-year-old Kathleen Dawson.
At her first-ever European Championships last month in London, Dawson struck gold as a member of the 400m medley relay and also scored an individual bronze in the women’s 100m backstroke. The latter event was especially noteworthy as Dawson’s times of 59.83 in prelims and 59.68 in finals marked the first time a Scottish woman has produced a sub-minute performance in the event.
“It’s surreal to think that I’m the first Scottish woman to have done that,” she told The National. “I always knew that I could break the minute barrier but to do it in London, in a major championship, was great. It makes me think there’s no reason why I can’t keep improving and maybe get below 59 seconds.”
Although she fell short of making GBR’s Olympic team, Dawson finished a very respectable 5th in the 100m backstroke and gained valuable, high-pressure racing experience.
“The British was the one and only chance to qualify for the Olympics so I put a lot of pressure on myself,” she said “I was really disappointed with the final because that definitely wasn’t anywhere near what I can do. I think it was an important learning experience though and in sport, it’s not all going to be plain sailing – you’ve got to be able to take the disappointments and move on.”
To help the swimmer capitalize on her new-found confidence, Dawson is making the move to Stirling University, looking to learn from the high-power talents with whom she’ll train day in, day out.
“The main reason I chose Stirling was because the swimming squad is so strong,” she explained. “I’ve been working hand-in-hand with them for the past few years so it makes sense for me to go there. It’ll be really inspirational – they all have a great work ethic and that’s the type of environment I want to be in.”
The dedicated training will come in handy as Dawson already has her sights set on the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
“Gold Coast Commonwealth Games (in 2018) is definitely somewhere I want to be,” she said. “I’ve not thought too much about medals – I think what’s important for me at the moment is just to work hard and try to better myself