The Commonwealth Games are the only major sporting event in which Wales competes as a separate entity from the United Kingdom.
Since the Games began in 1930, across all sports, Wales has medaled 306 times; but until this year, none of those medals had come from a women’s swimming relay. On the 6th and final night of the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Wales’ 400 medley relay team of Georgia Davies, Chloe Tutton, Alys Thomas, and Kathryn Greenslade made history by taking bronze in 4:00.75.
Overall, Welsh swimmers came away with a gold, a silver, and three bronze medals — one of the biggest hauls since the men’s team took a gold, two silvers, and bronze at the Edinburgh edition of the Games in 1970.
In light of the event, SwimSwam caught up with Wales National Performance Director Ross Nicholas to learn more about what the country has been doing to elevate its status in swimming.
“Swim Wales’ strategy throughout the last three years has focused on four main areas,” Nicholas said. Those strategies are:
- Providing a National Team program that effectively develops the mental, technical, and arena skills necessary for swimmers to transition through the system to success at international level.
- Providing appropriate everyday training environments that are in cohesion with the National Team program, including a network of 11 regional “performance clubs” which develop the depth and talent of competitive swimmers in Wales, as well as two high-performance centers (Swansea and Cardiff), which aim to develop swimmers to medal success at international level.
- Developing standards and expectations for coaches and sports science support through a structured professional development, and exposure to top-level competition.
- Providing significant exposure for swimmers to the highest level international competitions, including extensive travel to premier meets in Europe, USA, and Australia.
Nicholas added: “Our coaching and sports science team is directed to work with a multidisciplinary approach where every area of expertise (be that from a technical coaching perspective, or specific sports science/medicine support) is valued equally in terms of positively impacting on the performance of the athlete.”
Between 1970 and 2018, Wales has certainly not been devoid of success in swimming — 2016 Olympic silver medalist Jazz Carlin has been a major factor on the international stage for over a decade. Her achievements have set a precedent for Welsh swimmers, and sparked a “feedback loop,” in younger generations.
“There is now genuine belief that talent can be nurtured within Wales to succeed on the international stage,” Nicholas said “Jazz’s achievements at the Olympic level have also undoubtedly inspired a generation of young Welsh swimmers and competitive participation numbers are extremely healthy within the club system.”
As Tokyo 2020 approaches, Swim Wales will refocus on contributing to the greater United Kingdom cause, working closely will British Swimming to keep strategies and communications to all facets of swim and sports medicine staff in sync.
“With the continued support of Sport Wales and British Swimming, the strategic approach highlighted above will continue through to Tokyo 2020,” said Nicholas. “We do however very much work on the principle of ‘continual improvement’ and will, therefore, be looking to fully review and where possible improve our operational and delivery standards to ensure we fully build on the success of the Gold Coast.”