Swimming: Team Steel comes out fighting to top nationals medal table

Nick Grainger won four gold medals for Sheffield. Pic: Swpix.com
Nick Grainger won four gold medals for Sheffield. Pic: Swpix.com
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When the going gets tough you’d expect the swimming club nicknamed ‘Team Steel’ to get going - and they most certainly have.

City of Sheffield Swimming Club had a week to remember at Ponds Forge as they headed the medal table at the ASA National Championships youth and open sections.

The club has suffered funding cuts to the overall programme and individually to key swimmers, but still picked up 20 medals - 10 of which were gold.

Olympian Becky Turner in the 100 metre freestyle led the way, but the star was 18-year-old Nick Grainger with four gold medals (200 free, 400 free, 1,500 free, 4x200 relay).

Braxston Timm, aged 20, won the 100 fly, Lewis Coleman, also 20, the 200 free and 200 medley, 15 year old Isobel Grant came out on top in the 100 fly in the 15/16 age group and broke the national record, Matt Johnson, aged 18, was victorious in the 400 medley and joining Grainger in the relay were Johnson, Joe Faulkner 18 (brother of Olympian Ellie) and Luke Smith, aged 16.

Head coach Russ Barber said the group is as strong as he has known since joining the club in 2001: “When you have got a good group of swimmers together they all have to beat each other just to be selected for national events.

“They’re all improving and are in the right pathway to make the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but there’s plenty to do before then.

“There’s the Commonwealth Games next year in Glasgow and the good thing about that is that it’s an England team so without the Scots or Welsh we’re hoping to send three or four swimmers there.

“Then there’s another World Championships in 2015 (Sheffield’s Ellie Faulkner was at this year’s in the 800m freestyle) before Rio.

“They’re all in the age range to do two Olympics depending on how they progress.

“The big challenge is the funding and time commitment involved. It’s 30 hours training a week and if you’re not in top 16 in world you don’t attract world-class funding. It can be a determining factor.

“I’ve probably had, individually, more talented swimmers but certainly not as a group. Competitiveness in training is one of the secrets of it.

“Whenever I say train at a certain intensity and someone goes higher, the others chase after. They’re a good unit.”

A burgeoning relationship with Sheffield Hallam University is helping to bring even more talent to the city including European junior medallist Max Litchfield.

So while swimming on a national stage may be at a low ebb with just one medal at this year’s World Championships, locally there are great expectations of success.

* Follow The Star sports writer Richard Fidler on Twitter @richardfidler and Google+ follow Richard Fidler on Google+.