A swimmer from Richmond Dales Amateur Swimming Club has been crowned Swim England National Champion.
16-year-old Thomas Smith, club captain and member of the squad since he was only eight, qualified for both the British Summer Championships and the Swim England National Summer Meet — competitions that showcase the fastest and highest achieving swimmers in the sport.
At the Swim England National Summer Meet, Thomas qualified for the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 200m freestyle, 400m freestyle and the 200m individual medley.
During the competition he met with the country’s strongest swimmers, and it was in the sport’s blue ribbon 100m freestyle event that Thomas blew the competition out of the water, going sub- 54 seconds for the first time and winning the event in an incredible 53.56 seconds.
This feat catapulted him to glory as national champion in the men’s 17-years category.
Thomas said: “I always knew I had a good chance of getting a medal.
“My coach Gordon Rea told me to get in and swim two lengths of the baths as fast as I could, which is a quote from swimming legend and British Olympian Chris Cook.
“So I did exactly that. I’d like to thank the coaching staff at Richmond Dales, particularly Gordon and Callum, for getting me race ready.
“To become a national champion is a dream come true. Success comes with hard work and I’m excited to see what next season brings.”
Thomas’ father, Richie: “It took quite a while for it to sink in with us.
“Thomas has worked so hard all season, and this has definitely made it all worthwhile.
“It was also a great result to inspire the rest of the swimmers at the club and show them what’s possible when you work hard and show commitment. We are really proud of him.”
Thomas’ achievements topped off an incredible British Summer Championships and Swim England National Summer Meet for the Richmond-based swimming club.
In addition to Thomas’ success, the club also had 11 other swimmers qualify, the highest number in club history.
All of the club’s athletes held their own at this incredibly high level whilst at the competitions, achieving personal best times against the best in the country.
Even better, members of the club’s outstanding Para Squad were successful in medalling, with Maise Catt achieving a bronze in the women’s mixed classification 100m freestyle and Archie Hare winning bronze in the men’s nixed classification 100m freestyle and 100m backstroke.
On top of this, Harvey Stonebank, one of the club’s talented down syndrome swimmers, broke the down syndrome world senior record in the 200m individual medley.
These results at the season-ending competitions led Richmond Dales Amateur Swimming Club to be awarded third place at the British Summer Championships Club of the Year Award.
This accolade is awarded to clubs who show the greatest progression between swimmers’ competition entry times and their eventual results during the competition.
Winning the award is a huge honour, as it shows the commitment and dedication of swimmers during the lead up to the competition in improving their performance, whilst illustrating the skill of coaches in supporting them.
These outstanding results have helped close an excellent season for the club, one of the most successful in its 47-year history.
With the most county, regional and national championship qualifiers in recent history, the club has clearly had some excellent success in the pool.
In addition, the club also won Swim England’s coveted ‘Swimming Club of the Year Award,’ thanks to its community roots and commitment to diversity and inclusion. In addition, membership has grown at its fastest rate, with 160 swimmers currently on the roster, meaning that the club’s next generation of talented young swimmers is secure.
Gordon Rea, head coach at Richmond Dales Amateur Swimming Club, said: “The efforts of our swimmers at the British Summer Championships and the Swim England National Summer Meet were fantastic, and their hard work throughout the season really paid off.
“This was the icing on the cake for a spectacular season.
“They have succeeded despite some very challenging situations with regards to the pools they train in. So, congratulations must go to our swimmers and the rest of the coaching team who work hard every day to be the best they can be. We are very proud of them all.
“I would also like to thank our swim parents for their ongoing support; as official taxi drivers for early morning and late-night training sessions, their commitment to this sport is as critical to success as anyone’s. A huge debt of gratitude must also go to our army of supporters.
“We have attracted donations from several local businesses and many individuals this year, without which, we could not survive in these challenging financial times. Here’s to next season.”