By Amanda Heath
There is something very exciting about watching the elite major international swimming championships on TV and knowing that you will be swimming in the same venue a week or so later. This is what has happened for the World Masters Championships since 2015 and for the Europeans in 2016 in London and again this year, 2022, in Rome. It’s very motivating and all part of the preparation for me.
However, the news that the Elite 25k Open Water had to be abandoned part way through due to weather conditions and the fact that just watching the 5k made me feel seasick did not bode well for my Open Water race. The Masters Open Water 3k was held over 3 days, shortly after the Elites. On the first day, Tony Cherrington and Peter Stephens staggered out of the water with a not so reassuring it’s fun out there, you’ll love it. Tony was the first GB medallist of the whole Championships with a silver. I was swimming on the third day, in the very last wave, which was combined women’s 60-64 and 65-69 age groups. By then the waves had calmed and it was only a little choppy towards the end, at which point, I couldn’t really change my mind and get out. The course was not particularly well sign posted, with the buoys a long way apart, but I was lucky enough to team up with a German girl in the younger age group. We swam together all the way, with her taking bronze in 60-64 and me silver in 65-69.
Then it was on to the Stadio in Rome – and as soon as you hit the water for warm up, you knew it was something special. Fabulous surroundings and the water felt great. I was delighted that my main events, 100 and 200 breast were in Stadio and I made the most of it. Men’s and Women’s events alternated between Stadio and Pietralata, another great facility a little way out of the city. The competition was very patchy, extremely tough in some age groups/events, much weaker in others. This was possibly due to the limit of 3 pool events and the higher than normal entry fees. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much competition in my age group in any of my events, so it was just me against the clock. Watching Muriel win silver in the 100, a few heats ahead of me was inspirational, and spurred me on to get the World Record, which I had been chasing since January. Job done, and the rest of the swims were a breeze, no pressure, pure fun.
Just 3 of us competed for Spencer, and we were delighted to medal in all our events!
Tony Cherrington 80-84
Silver Open Water
Silver 50 free
Silver 100 free
Bronze 200 free
Muriel Hitchcock 80-84
Gold 50 breast
Silver 100 breast
Silver 200 breast
Amanda Heath 65-69
Gold 100 breast WR
Gold 200 IM
Gold 200 breast (was also credited with WR, as my record from Aberdeen, which was slightly faster, hadn’t yet been ratified and I didn’t like to argue with LEN)
Silver Open Water
Also competing for their other clubs were:
Peter Stephens 75-79
4th Open Water
5th 800 free
4th 400 free
4th 200 free
Hajnalka Racz 40-44
14th 100 free
Amanda was interviewed for the LEN European Championships website. Luca Milana has kindly translated the interview for all of us.
Amanda Heath, two world records. “It’s possible to get faster with ageing.”
The European Masters Swimming Championships in Rome will be remembered by Amanda Heath for improving the 100 and 200 meters breastroke world records and for her success on 200 meters individual medley. “I found out that with aging you can get quicker. This is the message that I want to send. I’ve been swimming quicker in this age group (65-69) than ever. You need lot of training to get these results”.
When she is in the water, Heath, British 65 years old swimming for the Spencer Swim Team, focuses on her performance. “During the race my attention is on the gliding technique. I don’t get distracted by time or other people”.
The lockdown didn’t stop her preparation. I think the lockdown helped me. I started doing dryland training, I committed to strenght and cardio exercises, and added yoga and tai chi chuan. When I went back to training in the pool I got benefits from that”.
Amanda Heath approached Masters swimming after a brief carrier as competitive swimmer. “My parents introduced me to swimming. In the pool I used to train I saw others diving from the board and from the platform. I tried too, but I decided that swimming would’ve been better. I started competing at 13. A few years later I quit and at 26 I competed in my first master competition.
The European Masters in Rome are over for the absolute protagonist of the breaststroke, who is looking forward to going back competing. “I like meeting new people, who eventually become friends, travelling to different places. This pushes me to continue my adventure in masters swimming”.