When I arrived at Cardiff Met in 2015 I immediately joined the swim team, training with Dave Tonge, Dan Davis and Seth Davies. I found the high standard of training extremely daunting and as I had not swum competitively for many years, I really felt the pressure. Representing the small island of St Helena at The Commonwealth Games was a childhood dream though, and this kept me motivated throughout my training.
With every session, I could feel myself growing and developing, further stirring me to reach my goal. During this time, I was also a member of the Cardiff Met Archers Basketball team, competing in both BUCS and Local League fixtures. Juggling both sports and academia was challenging, however it has always been my belief that work should come first. Living away from home at boarding college since 2012 had given me sufficient practice at looking after myself and handing work in before the deadline. This meant adjusting to life in Cyncoed halls wasn’t going to slow me down on my journey.
The second year started with me leaving the basketball team to pursue swimming full time. Freeing up my schedule gave me more time and energy to put into my training. Although I missed basketball, I knew it was the right decision. It showed too, as the progress I gained during that year felt substantial, giving me the driving force and belief that I would make it to the Commonwealth Games. Dave, Dan and at this point Tom were extremely helpful and gave me areas of improvement and additional training session plans over the Christmas, Easter and summer breaks.
As it does, the assignments became harder in second year, yet as I dropped basketball, my workload had decreased, meaning I didn’t struggle so much with handing in assignments on time. With selection just around the corner, the summer break was nerve-wracking and I constantly felt as though I wasn’t doing enough, so I was very glad to start the new term in September.
The final eight months began well. Getting back into training full time was where I needed to be and I was further improving. Outperforming my abilities and expectation at BUCS Short Course in the middle of term proved that I was on the right path, and it kept me motivated.
In November, I heard that I had been selected to represent St Helena in the Commonwealth Games. All the training had paid off and I was going to achieve my goal, a feeling all athletes want to experience.
Despite how excited I am to be going to the games, training for this opportunity has been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but worth every bit. My workload had significantly increased in the final year, collecting massage hours, work placement hours and writing a dissertation.
I was offered a placement on campus with the Archers WBBL team as their pitch side clinician and rehabilitator, and another with the Sports Massage Clinic in the National Indoor Athletics Centre at Cyncoed, which tied in well with my course and busy schedule. Gaining campus-based placements meant I could be supported by the university and the Sport Conditioning Rehabilitation and Massage (SCRAM) Team who provided me with equipment and advice.
I was so grateful when I found out in December that the university would allow me to pause my degree until next September, letting me focus entirely on training and getting to Australia. I am also extremely grateful to my coaches who have seen me through the past two and a half years of training.
Going forward into the final weeks in the run up to the games, I hope to maintain my current rate of progression and keep setting new standards for myself.
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All photos by Katie Bower