Swindon's Commonwealth stars could help youngsters into sport

Laura Halford, centre, winning team bronze in the all-around

Jazz Carlin won gold in the 800m freestyle

Stephani Sherlock

Tilly Gray

First published in Sport Swindon Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , Sports reporter

AS the dusts settles on a successful Commonwealth Games for the Home Nations in Glasgow, Swindon can look back and be proud of its top 20 finish.

With 71 nations competing north of the border, athletes from the town brought home a total of five medals - one gold, two silvers and two bronzes.

From Welsh golden girl Jazz Carlin to her compatriot Laura Halford who won three medals in the rhythmic gymnastics, sport in the town is likely to receive a massive boost.

Swimmer Carlin, who took gold in the 800m freestyle and silver in the 400m free, learnt her trade with Swindon Tigersharks, while Halford competes for Swindon Esprit.

But it not just the medalists who have flown the flag for Swindon, Tilly Gray, a former Swindon Dolphin, represented England in the 100m and 200m butterfly, while Halford’s Esprit clubmate Stephani Sherlock also wore the Red Rose with pride.

Swindon Dolphin coach Louise Clayton feels that swimming clubs in the area could be set for a bigger increase in number than what they saw following the Olympics in London.

“We saw an increase in numbers after London 2012 and with that Olympics legacy and you would think that it would be same after the Commonwealth games.

“We saw an increase of 15 per cent (after the Olympics), we were quite a big club prior to that, so if we see another increase like that then we would probably need extra pool time to what we already have.

“Potentially, given the fact that both Jazz and Tilly have swum for the local clubs we could see an even bigger increase.

“The success of local swimmers like Jazz and Tilly should mean there will be another increase with the success closer to home.

“You will have local children who will be inspring to be like Jazz and Tilly and see the success that they have had and want to represent England, Wales or Great Britain.”

Clayton added: “We have got a pathway for all swimmers who come to us, right from the the three-year-olds learning to swim to the over 25s.

“Basically they come along have a trial and then we put then in a programme that is best suited to their needs.

“We have 11 swimmers at the Nationals in Sheffield this month all striving for success and looking to emulate Tilly and Jazz.”

However, despite the success of Carlin, Tigersharks coach Lesley Leffers doesn’t believe that the club will see a long term increase in numbers.

She said: “After the Olympics, for a little while, we did have a few more people wanting to join.

“But most went very quickly because swimming is an expensive sport, it can cost a lot of money and people sometimes can’t afford or want to spend that amount of money on swimming.

“There is an awful lot of commitment that is required as well - not just from the children but the parents too.

“We have swimmers who are training eight times a week, for two-and-a-half hours each session.

“They also do other things as well, plus trying to fit in a normal life and school.”

Leffers says that Carlin stays in regular contact with the club and gives advice to the youngster on a regular basis.

“We are very, very proud of Jazz, she is someone who has battled and battled and never given up - she is a wonderful young lady,” the Tigersharks coach said.

“She did ever so well and it is well deserved, she still comes down to train with us and the children really enjoy having her around the club.

“Jazz is also going to be at our open day at the Link Centre at the end of the month and she is going to be bringing her medals along too for people to look at.”

Espirt coach Deb Hows believes that all the success the Home Nations enjoyed at the Commonwealth Games can only be good for the promotion of gymnastics.

And she feels the fact Halford is coming home with three medals will help any potential gymnasts believe that they can reach the top.

She said: “We are so proud of both of them. The expectation (of Sherlock and Halford) was to go there and do the best that they could do and whatever else happened, happened.

“It was a new experience for them both performing in the multi disciplines and on a raised podium in such a massive arena. We hoped that they would be able to develop and do their best.

“I really hope that this will have a postive impact on the sport not just in Swindon but all over the country. The home nations did really and it has given gymnastics a lot more exposure.

“I hope that we can start to see an increase in numbers, whether that be people watching or partcipation, would be massive.

“I think having both Stephani and Laura at the Games will make it seem possible to people of Swindon, that they could do it too - it makes it more real.

“Maybe they will feel it can happen to them, or somebody they know.”

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