The Israeli Olympic swimming team visited Brooke Weston to talk to students about their training regime, preparations and hopes for the London 2012 Games.
Three of the swimmers, Gal Nevo, Alon Mandel and Itai Chammah, represented the state in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. They gave two talks, firstly to primary students then to a cohort from Brooke Weston. The trio are part of an eight-strong squad who have been in Corby for the past two weeks, training at the International pool and acclimatising to the UK.
Students were first shown a promotional video of the team in action at Corby before the athletes spoke about their sport and answered questions. Gal, a medley swimmer, told students: ‘I wasn’t really good until I was about 17 or 18. I was frustrated a lot of times when I knew I could be better. I just had to wait and be very patient but it was worth it.’
Itai Channah, whose discipline is 200 metres backstroke, said: ‘Sport has brought me so much. We have all been around the world, places you probably wouldn’t see or go in your regular life. You also make a lot of friends with your sport, it is a lot of fun but disciplined as well. Sport is really pure, it is all about you, your body and what you can do with it. It is all about ups and downs, success and failure. I guarantee that if you keep up with sports, even if it is hard or disappointing then you gain a lot.’
The team take around 22 to 24 seconds over 50 metres and approximately two minutes to cover 200 metres, or four lengths of an Olympic sized pool. They complete six kilometres (equivalent to 120 lengths) daily in practice and some have swum up to 10km, or 200 lengths in a training session.
Alon Mandel, who specialises in 100 metres butterfly, said: ‘All of us are training really hard every day to fulfil our dream which is to become Olympic swimmers and represent our country. Basically we spend 20 hours a week in the water and also work out in the gym three to four times. We came to Corby to work harder and to increase our chances. Each of us has to be self-motivated. Everything we do takes a lot of practice. It was amazing to be selected for the Olympics. It is the dream of everyone here to represent their country, basically it is a dream come true.’
After the talk the students got a chance to meet the squad and have commemorative photographs autographed. Asaf Maimon, who has been a swimming coach for more than 20 years, said: ‘It is very nice in Corby, we have enjoyed wonderful hospitality and feel very welcomed. Coaching is very complicated, you have got to understand swimming, psychology, nutrition and physiology. The job of a coach is to integrate them all and know which of those factors is most important at any time. The closer the Olympics get the pressure is higher and the expectations are higher. We all want to succeed.’