COMMONWEALTH Games hopeful Tilly Gray hopes to inspire the next generation of swimmers after teaming up with new sponsor Puddle Ducks.
The link-up will allow the Loughborough student to give up her job and concentrate on her bid to reach next year’s Games in Glasgow, but will also see her work with Puddle Ducks who offer tailored swimming lessons for children.
The 21-year-old former Swindon Dolphin athlete is now only 0.7 seconds off the qualifying time for Glasgow after she beat her personal best during an open meet in Sheffield at the weekend, and believes the sponsorship will play a vital role in helping her reach her goal.
“It will make it easier to compete in open meets and pay for suits and things like that, and I won’t have to work in the shoe shop anymore and combine work, studying and swimming,” he said.
“Trying to balance that was hard, so it will be great to be able to give everything to my sport rather than trying to do everything to a mediocre level.
“I have seen some improvement already, and at the weekend I improved on my PB to put me close to the qualifying time for the Commonwealth Games, which is still my target.”
But having seen first-hand the work Puddle Ducks do with young swimmers, the new sponsorship is far from just being financial help for Gray.
“It’s exactly what I want to do in the future, and I believe in everything they are delivering,” Gray said.
“Financially it is great for me to be given their support, but it’s more of a future career move, it’s more than just money for me.
“I love what Puddle Ducks do, and this is probably the best way for me to give back to swimming. I am really excited to be involved and I can’t wait to get involved and pass on my love for swimming.
“I have experienced things like Olympic trials and international meets, and I know what it takes to be one of the best in Britain, so it will be great to be able to pass that on and help young swimmers take the next step.”
Puddle Ducks co-founder Tracy Townend has been impressed with Gray, and believes she is the perfect athlete to represent the business.
“When we had the chance to support a rising star in British swimming, we jumped at the chance,” she said.
“Tilly will endorse what we do, and when parents are considering sending their kids to swim schools they will see someone like Tilly saying they like what we do, and that is a great endorsement for us.”