Test the waters

Ahead of the ISA Swimming Finals, Richard Stedeford, ISA National Sports, explains how London 2012 still inspires young athletes

How do you think it feels to be an Olympian? To have reached those dizzy heights of elite sport knowing that you are one of the best. Your adventure begins with a journey, literally; by car, bus, train, plane and you’re there, entering your theatre of dreams and walking amongst giants of your sport. 

For an Olympic athlete, it has been their goal for the past four years. Countless days of being in the gym, an innumerable amount of early starts and long days; and a diet that makes the indulgent types cringe. It is their ‘end game’, their objective; when the Olympic flame is lit, to be standing inside the multi-million-pound stadium, looking up at their country’s flag knowing that the past few years of grit and determination has been worth it. And then, in the blink of an eye, their race has been run and their fight has been fought. The athlete’s village closes its doors, the magnificent structures, arenas and stadiums have seen their final ounce of competitive action and for the Olympians, another four-year journey begins.

So, what next? Does a legacy emerge from each generation that the Olympics inspires? How do we ensure that this generation’s children are inspired to invest in sport? For London 2012, it is now a distant memory but the footsteps that have been left are big and they are big enough to be filled by many tiny (and not so tiny) feet. 

This is especially so at the London Aquatics Centre where the setting for the Olympic swimming remains as impressive as it was four years ago. Surrounded by a superb viewing gallery that reaches 2,500 at its maximum capacity, lies a gloriously blue and immaculate 50m swimming pool. It is a venue of grandeur that justifies an event that is majestic, one that gives many children the opportunity to be inspired and show off their outstanding athleticism in front of a captive and huge audience. 

It is here, on 21st January 2017, where the Independent Schools Association will host their National Swimming Finals. 400 talented young swimmers from seven different regions will follow in the footsteps of Olympians on their own mini adventure. They have earned their place, having taken part and won each of their respective area events. From age 7 to 18, each child will take the same steps the likes of Michael Phelps, Rebecca Adlington and Ellie Simmonds were all taking on their way to an Olympic medal. 

As they approach their lane, the atmosphere will be enthralling and electric with the spectators’ admiration for their achievement and imminent moment of glory. As they dive, or explode off the blocks, this will be their moment to shine and regardless of the result, they are all winners. Seconds or minutes later, as they touch the finish pad and raise their heads from the surface of the water, they will hear the applause from the onlooking crowd. It is at this point we hope they get that feeling, the feeling we all get when we know we want to do it all over again. Having walked in the footsteps of Olympians, we hope that every child feels inspired, motivated and determined to reinvest in sport.

At ISA, we are advocates of ‘sport for all’ which is why the whole sporting calendar is designed to be inclusive of all children, allowing each child to have an encouraging experience that motivates them to continue enjoying physical activity. 

Good luck to all the finalists, we hope you enjoy the experience and feel inspired to continue playing sport! 

W: www.isaschools.org.uk/sports

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