National medal double for exciting Waltham swimmer
Waltham swimmer Will Graham ended a whirlwind week with two national medals in his pocket and a British final under his belt.
The 15-year-old became the first-ever Melton Swimming Club member to qualify for the British Championships, and needing a top 24 British ranking to compete, Graham had qualified for five events in the 15 and under age group.
He did brilliantly to reach the final of his opening event, the 100m butterfly, where he finished ninth, having improved his personal best in both heat and then final to 59.29secs.
“I did better than I was expecting,” Graham said. “I got a second-and-a-half PB in the heats and went into the final sixth and then went faster and came out ninth.
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“I had been struggling with holding up the pace on my second length, but I did a lot of training on the stamina and it worked.
“I went out a second faster and then didn’t tie up on the second length.”
Despite missing out on the finals, the Belvoir High School pupil accomplished every athlete’s prime target at a major championship by securing more lifetime bests in his next three events: 200m individual medley (16th - 2min 16.80secs), 50m freestyle (25.95secs - 21st), and 200m freestyle (2min 01.51secs – 15th).
The only disappointing note came in his final and strongest event, the 50m butterfly, where he missed the final by just three places.
“I wasn’t expecting to get to the final of the 100 fly, but I was in the 50 and just missed out which was a bit annoying,” he added.
“I was pleased with the experience, but next year in Glasgow I think I’ll be focusing more on my best events.”
After only a few days back at home, the Graham family followed the familiar route back up to Sheffield for the ASA English Summer Championships, for swimmers ranked 25 to 48 in Britain.
On the hunt for medals in his two events, Graham thought he had blown his chances despite qualifying for both 100m and 400m freestyle finals.
He was only eighth quickest over 100m in the heats and then sixth fastest over the longer distance.
“I knew at the English I would be closer to the medals, but from the heats I thought I wasn’t going to do that,” he said.
“We looked back on the live stream and just looked what I could improve on and my coach had a few pointers.”
The changes worked, knocking almost a second off his PB in the 100m final, Graham stormed to the bronze medal.
He then sliced a staggering five seconds off his 400m freestyle PB, set in the earlier heats, to win a brilliant 400m silver.
The time would have been good enough to earn a final spot at the British Championships and came as a surprise in only his second competitive attempt at the distance.
The performance also opened his eyes to new strengths and possibilities.
He said: “I swam it at a club gala and did pretty well so decided to try and qualify right at the end of the window and got in at the last minute.
“I thought I was just a sprinter, but obviously my long distance was better than I thought.
“We have got some longer distance events at the club so I will probably do the 400m free and then 200m.
“At this age you don’t want to specialise in one thing. Butterfly is my strongest stroke, but I did well in all my freestyle as well.”