The 2013 European Junior Championships took place in Riccione, Italy from 6th-8th September. GB & NI Team Manager, Scott Wood kept a day by day account of the event.

Day 1

Written by Scott Wood GB & NI Team Manager

Show Me The Ticket

What a day. Leaving Newquay with Physio Lucy Barrel, Charlie Haynes and Charlotte Hewitt on board and the drive up to the Barnstaple junction on the M5 to pick up the Devon GB connection of Liam Ward, Summer Whiteley and Lily Nicholls. Up to the Membury Services on the M4 where the Wales connection had left their luggage for us to take to Heathrow whilst they headed to Gatwick with six race boards and an Easy Jet flight to Bologna. We then headed to T5 at Heathrow for our BA flight also to Bologna.

Simple really.

All going smoothly, we met up with the Newcastle connection. The first was James Harvey Purvis (JHP). Now JHP is a quite large unit and manages to swim 50 metres carrying the heavy plastic orange thing with no arms quicker than most of us can just swim 50 metres. JHP is a key figure in this campaign.

Also part of the northern mix was Aiden McGuire, fin swimmer of promise, good kid and the Captain of this GB team. The final part of the northern group was pool super coach Amy Wilkinson.

T5 was unusually quiet and as a result it only took forever to check in. Usually it takes forever and ever. With our bags, fins, backpacks, massage bench etc. checked in all seemed scaringly quiet.

Then the phone rang! The screen said Ashley Lewis which immediately meant it was Lloydy (again long story) Team GB Beach Coach, brother of Wales most decorated athlete, Luis Rosewell, and the man in charge of our six 10’6″ race boards. I trembled as my hand moved toward the answer icon.

I knew this was not good news.

‘Woody’, he said. ‘They have lost three of the boards’.

Now I can understand losing bags. I mean airlines handle loads of them and many look the same but at ten foot six inches long and fifty five centimetres wide this was not an easy thing to lose I would’ve thought.

When the F1 crew travel round the planet do they ever lose their cars?

Well at least we had three of them so when we arrived at Bologna Airport, the plan was to scoop up the three boards from storage, get them on the bus and head to the hotel. It was already midnight and I was keen to get moving.

The lady at the Airport info desk  sent me to security who sent me to his boss who referred me to the police who called airport operations who the texted the key guy. The key guy arrived with the key and he had the power to make my life difficult.

‘I need the ticket’ he said to which I replied  i have no ticket.

When he asked the question ‘how do I know they are yours’ I semi- freaked. At this stage the boards were behind a glass wall that the key guy and only the key guy had access to.

The key guy pausedand again asked for the ticket.

Rest easy, I got the boards but only when the key guys boss devised a solution that involved me providing passport details. The key guy parted with the words ‘if they are not yours we will find you.’

Day 2

Written by Scott Wood GB & NI Team Manager

Cereal Bowls

Waking suddenley at 7am I stumbled down to the beach after just 3.5 hours of poor quality sleep. I felt I needed exercise and a run along the beach followed by a swim in the Adriatic Sea was just what was required.

The beach stretches as far as the eye can see in both directions. If you keep running north you will eventually drop into Venice’s Grand Canal.

Come Sunday this beach will be jammed as Europe’s finest youth Lifesavers do battle for the crown as champions of Europe.

But first the small matter of an evening (SERC) and a full day of pool competition awaits us. The venue for pool competition is spectacular. A four pool complex featuring both indoor and outdoor 50 metre pools, two diving pools including 10m diving towers and a warm up – warm down pool.

Carn Brea Leisure Centre this is not.

Our days are busy and productive:

Breakfast early followed by SERC training. All the team is involved in this and Charlie Haynes makes a great unconscious patient. I am determined to win a major SERC title before my GB time ends. This is an event of procedure, priority and structure. A three minute box tick that is there for the taking.

We have a two-hour pool session each day but this is not for fitness but more for perfecting relay changes etc. The pool session is followed by lunch and a compulsory team resting period. Late afternoon is again SERC training and a late beach session. We eat again at 7.30 followed by a team meeting and the bed.

I managed to avert an explosive situation at breakfast this morning when Charlotte raised an issue that had potential global political and cultural ramifications. ‘Woody, she said. ‘My Weetabix don’t fit in my cereal bowl.’ Looking down I could see she was 100% correct, at least 1mm of the Weetabix was balanced on either side of the bowl.

This is what my life has evolved into, I thought.

‘Why don’t you break it in half?’ I asked. ‘I don’t know, she replied. I never have before’ And it is as simple as that, who was I to change something that meant so much.

‘Excuse me waiter can I get another bowl over here?’

Day 3

Written by Scott Wood GB & NI Team Manager

SERC Chocolate

Awesome bronze medal in the SERC competition last night just seventeen points off Germany’s gold medal. This was just what was required from the team of Aidan McGuire, Emma Henderson, Ash Lewis and James Harvey Purvis. We spoke long and hard to these four about the responsibility of laying a platform for this competition and they were magnificent.

Germany were one of only two teams out of 16 who located a submerged dummy in the far corner of the pool and the crowd of 47 went bananas. The communication and structure of the GB team was a credit to pool coach Amy Wilkinson on only two days of training.

The full pool program starts today with James Harvey Purvis defending his European crown in the 50 carry. We spoke last night before bed about taking our competition performance to another level and setting personal targets beyond our previous expectations. We spoke about wearing the letters GBR on the shirt and about representing all members of SLSGB and RLSS UK with pride and, above all, not letting yourself down.

The platform has been now laid and only one thing remaining:

  1. To turn our belief into reality

Days 4 & 5

Written by Scott Wood GB & NI Team Manager

I write this on the bus journey from Riccione to Bologna, but completed back in the UK. I am desperate to write about day 5 but not done with day 4 so let’s cut to the chase. These European Youth Lifesaving Championships ended late Sunday with Team GB recording the following:

Two gold medals
Five silver medals
Four bronze medals
European champions beach
3rd overall men’s
5th overall women’s

The Sunday of the recent senior European championships in the Netherlands was, I thought, going to be filed away in the wood brain as my all-time greatest day in sport – incredibly, Sunday surpassed it!

Amidst the drenching humidity of the last gasp of the Italian summer Team GB finished these championships with an unbelievable Rescue Tube bronze medal with pool swimmers JHP and team captain Aidan McGuire dragging Liam from 6th to third in the longest drag history. It was THE perfect finish and the run symbolised everything we had spoken about over the duration of the competition in regards to effort and commitment.

So let’s rewind to Saturday and the pool competition:

Prior to this trip I had met, from memory, James Harvey Purvis only once before. Obviously I had heard of him and about him and was naturally excited when he opted for the chance to defend his European 50m manikin carry title rather that travel to Australia to compete in the Commonwealth Championships. He is everything a team needs; his best is the best. He gives his competitors respect but that’s it. He wants to rip their heart from their chest and he loves performing on the big stage. Setting a new European record in the heats was incredible. He qualified #1 by 1.5 secs and it placed him in a slightly unenviable position of having the pressure of NOT losing rather than winning. History will show him being turned over by an Italian who also took his new European record. He was shattered but let no one down – his performance was epic with many of the parents (and coaches) very emotional at the quality of his performance. He finished the pool comp with a PB in the 100 tow and 50 free (medley relay).

Everyone chipped in great performances in the pool and our talks about doing the simple things well resulted in near perfect races. The one item we require is depth in events but team captain Aidan McGuire, Lily Nichols with six PB’s and Emma Henderson was all awesome for us.

We finished the pool competition with silver and bronze medals but more importantly 117 points in the bag. We had five A finals and were in all B finals but one. It was an awesome performance and gave us an opportunity to achieve special things on Sunday.

Which we did.

Both the heats of the men’s and women’s board events were dominated by the French, Belgium and Spanish. The speed over the first 200 metres was astonishing and it required a change of strategy to give us a chance. The plan was to let them (the enemy) lead, we were going to be patient, to wash ride as far into the race as possible and try to get over them in the final 150 which was a technical long bunny hop and wade finish. We believed this would benefit us – and this is how it played out.

In the men’s board Charlie ground his way to the front as they headed for home – we were going crazy but as they got closer, we could see a GB cap on his wash, it wasn’t Ash Lewis as he was to the left in a group battling for third. No, it was Liam, oh my god, how he got to that position was incredible as he was 9th or 10th early. They were clear and going to go one and two. 50 metres from the line Liam comes off the Haynes wash (if you can?) and begins to come around. I quickly catch sight of Liam’s dad who was fighting the crowd just to be able to witness his son’s greatest moment in sport (for the moment). The wade was on and, quite simply, Liam had more. I was behind so couldn’t see his face but I hope one day I see the image because it was surely disbelief at what he had achieved. Charlie lay motionless on the sand from the effort and Ash Lewis won a battle with the rest of them for 5th.

This was race only race one of day two.

The women’s board race was as epic as the men’s and it proved that a young kid from Devon had all the tools to be a player on the global stage. The three GB competitors on the women’s board race qualified for the final with both Summer and Charlotte winning their heats. Kirsten had a slightly harder road but just got it in the end. It was critical to our point’s tally that we have three GB competitors in every final.

Like the men’s, the women’s race was so fast in the first 250 metres. We adopted the same race structure: to be patient, stay on the wash as best we can and make a move (if we can!) when the race heads for home. The start was electric and Charlotte and Kerstin were both positioned OK but Summer, noticeably, was caught out and seemingly struggling in the wash at the back of the field. As we predicted the field, initially strung out, came together slightly at the cans, and as they headed for home we could see GB cap on the right, moving around, and to the front. It was Summer, no way, it was, she had paddled through and around the whole of Europe and now led by a board length. Charlotte and Kerstin were battling for third but Summer with a young Irish girl on her wash was heading for glory. I was (and also the entire GB support squad) screaming at her to begin the wade but there was slight hesitation at the depth. The Irish girl jumped and the sprint was on. Summers silver was incredible – could’ve been gold but the time will come. Charlotte and Kerstin were 8th and 5th respectively.

The run swim run event was so difficult with a soft sand run and a long wade. I liked our chances and Lily, in particular was nervous. It played out that way with Lily in front as they headed home and she began the long wade in front, the crowd was massive and as I sprinted along the course that wove its way to the finish yelling for her to keep going – I was so desperate for her to win from this position but the French girl had more in the final few metres to become European champion – team GB was ecstatic but it could’ve been more. Summer and Charlotte both top ten in another great battle. By the time the men lined up, Liam (according to him) was unbeatable, and I couldn’t doubt him. He was swimming great and his run speed was special. The tactics were simple, stay on the feet and try to win the run. To be honest, I was focused on Charlie and he hit the front as the wade began. I never saw Ash or Liam and as I positioned myself down the run course I waited to see what cap appeared around the corner first. I completely expected it to be Charlie but it was Liam, and he was flying, and in total control. His second European title in the bag in ten minutes. Charlie finished fourth and again lay prone on the sand completely spent.

In war, I would expect that you need to have complete faith that the man beside you will fight to the end. Ash Lewis is that man and I would love the opportunity to sing the anthem for him, or with him in the future because he deserves an honour like that.

Need to wrap this up but let me say that the GB youth team was incredible on and off the course and this was one of the great trips. Apologies for the zero humour in this blog – think I’ve run out of lines but let me say that:

GB Captain Aidan McGuire
James Harvey Purvis
Summer Whiteley
Emma Henderson
Ashley Lewis
Kerstin Watts
Lily Nichols
Liam Ward
Charlotte Hewitt
Charlie Haynes
Amy Wilkinson (pool coach)
Lloyd Rosewell (beach coach)
Lucy Barrel (Physio)

All did Great Britain and Northern Ireland proud and it was a privilege for me to part of a team with all of them. Special mention to Lily Nichols: pre competition I spoke (endlessly) about being tough, and smart, and not giving in and about using a platform like these championships to go to another level both personally and competitively. After each beach event Lily was basically assisted to the Physio bench. A couple of times I thought that the comp was done for her. I left the decision to her and Lucy but in the end I had the final decision. As gutsy performances go this was one of the best, and for me, it cemented for eternity, what representing your country is all about.