SOME of swimming’s biggest names will be in the capital this weekend competing in the Edinburgh International Long Course meet as they gear up for a massive couple of years, with the World Championships in Russia in August, followed by the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Underlining the growing lure of Scottish venues, the high-calibre field will be bolstered by Olympic medallists from the USA and Europe, as well as the best of British.
One of the highlights of the event, which is being hosted by the Royal Commonwealth Pool from March 13-15, will be the men’s 100m breaststroke, featuring Commonwealth and European champion Adam Peaty, the Commonwealth 200m champion Ross Murdoch, London 2012 silver medallist Michael Jamieson and his training partner Andrew Willis. They will be pushed by top Italian Fabio Scozzoli, two-time Olympian Caba Siladji, from Serbia, and the French duo of Giacomo Perez Dortona and Jean Dencausse.
It is the ideal warm-up for the British swimmers who have the World Championship team trials in Glasgow next month. That means that a number of leading Scots will be in action, including Commonwealth medallists Hannah Miley, Stephen Milne, Robbie Renwick, Duncan Scott and Corrie Scott, while fellow Britons Ben Proud, Fran Halsall, Jazz Carlin, Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, Amy Wilmott and Christopher Walker-Hebborn will all be hoping to post good times.
But it is the presence of the likes of US stars Natalie Coughlin, Tom Shields and Anthony Ervin, that catapults the meet beyond the run of the mill fare.
“It is wonderful for us to be able to come to Europe and to be able to enjoy really nice cities while still being focused on training and racing,” said Coughlin, who shares the US women’s record for most Olympic swim medals with 12 from three Games and a massive haul of 20 World Championship podium finishes.
“This helps us build up towards the summer and it allows us to race on back-to-back weekends and try to improve on what we did last weekend in Marseilles. This may not be one of the major meets but it is really hard to turn off your competitive drive and we are all extremely competitive but really we are just focusing on our times and I’m trying to improve to hopefully set me up for a really good summer.”
Coughlin is two years into a new coaching partnership with Dave Durden and believes she is as strong and as committed as ever, determined to put a poor showing at London 2012 behind her and push ahead towards more glory in Brazil next year.
“I’m feeling very strong. I was with my previous coach for 12 years and we had a marvellous relationship but after London I knew I needed a change. I think we now have a very good plan for this summer and, hopefully, next summer.
“I think the British team has been getting quite strong over the past few years and what we remarked on was that we have been here for less than a day but have been to two different pools and they are very nice facilities and they are also very busy, not just with high-level swimmers but also beginners, and I think any time you have so many people excited to be in the water is good and that gives you a good foundation to build from and develop the talent.
“You already have a lot of that talent at elite level, which is why we are here. We want to push ourselves and we can do that this weekend because there will be some very good British swimmers racing.”
Scottish Commonwealth medallist Caitlin McClatchey, said: “The Commonwealths last year was such an incredible competition and it showed we have great athletes and facilities and it is exciting that so many international athletes are looking to Edinburgh as a meet they want to plan into their schedules.
“It is a great way to test ourselves away from the intensity and pressures on major meets.”