In the Deep End (E.P.F. 2019)
Updated: Aug 29, 2019
About a week before the European Festival in Portugal, Michelle Mullen contacted me to see if I could also swim for the team. It was a little unexpected to be asked but not entirely without merit as in a previous festival, Jenny Romberg from the Finish delegation had asked me if I could swim for Finland.
I hadn't planned to go to Hungary until Finland asked me but I quickly contacted the Irish delegation and put myself down for the Photography Competition. With two waterproof cameras in the Hungarian pool, some of the Irish thought I was a bit of a traitor swimming with a blue cross on my head but the Irish swim team was excellent and took podium places in different categories where as the highest I took was 4th place in a Breast Stroke event. I think I was just behind an Irish swimmer in that category.
I am a strong swimmer but not a competitive swimmer and I would never have volunteered for Swimming unless the team was stuck. Naturally as a former lifeguard, I am happy to jump in the water to help out but with seconds on the line determining the points the team will receive, I'd rather help Finland finish then take away from the strong swim teams I have seen Athlone put together in the past.
I was a bit nervous how my neighbour Patricia Cleary would react when she heard I was on the team but to my surprise, we were the four man team even if she usually just coached and organised the swim team.
In the end we were able to recruit Aisling O'Connor who dived in at the deep end to help out and we divided the tasks up by ignoring 50 metre Butterfly event, Patricia doing 50m Back Crawl followed by me for the men's team, Aisling doing 50m Breast Stroke then me and then Patricia finishing with 50m Freestyle before I free-styled Breast Stroke.
Then we finished with a relay event which saw Patricia start off a 50m swim where I dived overhead from the starting blocks when she touched the wall, swam two lengths where Aisling was waiting at the wall for me to finish and Patricia took up the slack by swimming the final two lengths.
The decision to ignore Butterfly came at a penalty but as other committees had scraped it from previous years, most teams weren't planning on competing in it and for a novice like me, Butterfly is an intimidating difficult stroke.
With so few teams competing in Butterfly, there were many marks on offer for those who did and I was reminded of a moment competing in the Community Games as a child when I was told that there were only three of us in one particular event and even if I just attempted Butterfly I would get a Bronze medal. I did and I didn't.
After embarrassing myself for a third place position in a three horse race, they then decided that my attempt didn't warrant a medal and they never gave me the prize they had promised me even after I did what I was asked to do.
It is clear that Finland won't be asking me swim for them next year as the European Festival is in Finland but I do have a year to practice a proper dolphin kick but I can't imagine I'll ever have as easy a chance to take Bronze as I did as a child. Embarrassing myself would not have been an issue but attempting Butterfly would have sapped all my energy for Backcrawl and Breast Stroke.
I have avoided Backcrawl for twenty years as I have titanium staples in my left shoulder that hold the ligaments in place and after ten dislocations back in 1999-2000, my stroke always seemed to pull to the left which left me uncomfortable trying to plough headfirst into other swimmers as I looked at the ceiling. Breast Stroke is my one solid discipline and even swimming a kilometre for triAthlone 2012, I opted for a head up Brest Stroke over a more efficient Front Crawl.
I was happy with the Breast Stroke heat but choosing it again for Freestyle meant losing valuable time against all the other swimmers. Maybe a week isn't long enough to get pool fit but damn it, I still deserved that Bronze medal in the Community Games no matter how bad my Butterfly stroke is.
POLISH POOL: The Polish team jumped in for a pool photograph
TIMING IS EVERYTHING: I had the time of my life swimming even if I didn't take any points
FINISH LINE: Finish friends Jessica Mannstróm and Jenny Romberg in Hungary.