SCOTLAND’S swimmers had surpassed the expectations of aquatics head coach Graham Wardell long before the 20th Commonwealth Games even got underway. Since then they have continued to surprise and thrill the nation, with medals, feelgood tales, new heroes and heroines, quality cheerleading and impromptu guards of honour.
In a consistent show of spirit and talent, they have again contributed significantly to the Scottish medal haul, winning three golds, three silvers and four bronzes. That togetherness and pride were things Wardell knew he could count on.
“We had a team meeting on the last day of the holding camp and we discussed psychology and what the Scotland team means to them. I walked into the back of the team meeting as one of the athletes stood up and said you don’t need a T-shirt with Team Scotland on it to know who you represent as you stand on the blocks because you carry it in your heart. I think that’s true of every Scottish person and I think that’s even true of the ones who have Scottish parents but live down south. It is a real sense of national pride and our team spirit is based on pride and passion and performance. “
While several new players emerged as household names and stalwarts played their role, Wardell says it was the combination of both that gave them their strength.
“Without Michael Jamieson going 2.07mins, Ross Murdoch may not have gone 2.07 because that quality is there at the trials. In the breaststroke you had to be in the world top 20 to get on the Scottish team! It’s a crazy situation. Look at the strength of this team – we have set a Commonwealth record, a British record and more than 19 national records at one meet. That shows real strength in real depth in Scottish swimming. I’m personally very proud.
“If you look at the general Team Scotland statistics, we wanted to have the biggest ever team and we tried to play our part. We set our benchmarks as the times it took to qualify for the finals over the past three or four Commonwealth Games and tried to make sure we were ranked sixth or seventh. At the time we set those benchmarks we thought we would have a team of about 18 or 19 so to have a team of 42-44 is testament to the hard work and the way they stepped up because it’s a home games and people wanted the opportunity to race in front of the home crowd and their own family and friends.”
As well as producing the goods the team have shown great unity and revelled in their role as team players.
“One of my main things was for the team to come here and have some fun,” said Wardell. “Sometimes when athletes go to Commonwealth Games and European championships and I have been on teams before where they get very uptight and overwrought by the occasion but this is our territory and our patch.
“We have held meets at Tollcross for many, many years so to come here and celebrate not only our swimmers but others, is special. We have done a guard of honour with the Australians and the South Africans at times [this week] and I think we just want to celebrate really fast wins.
“We have seen world records go and that’s fantastic for kids to sit and watch that and be really inspired and that’s what we wanted to do. I have really enjoyed it as you can tell by my croaky voice. I think that one of the keys to the team’s successes is creating that happy and relaxed atmosphere and they are professional as well.
“We were chatting earlier and saying that sport is such an emotional thing. It taps into something deep within us and we still have the diving and we have two divers on the Scottish team and when we asked if the athletes wanted to go and see any of the other sports once these sessions were finished they said ‘no, we are all going to the diving because we are an aquatics team’. It’s not just swimming but diving as well. So the whole team is going through.
“On the first night of the swimming Grace [Reid] and James [Heatly], who are based in Edinburgh in their own village, asked for special permission to come through to support the swimmers. So, we are all one team and we will all be through cheering on our divers who have two more days to go.”