Loughborough College swimmer Molly Renshaw is thrilled with her selection for the Rio Olympics – but she has revealed just how hard the days leading up to the announcement were for her.
The 20 year old is a British record holder and is ranked second in the world for 200m breaststroke but was taking nothing for granted when it came to being picked for the Great Britain team for the Games this summer.
Molly was only 14 when she won the 200m Breaststroke bronze at the British Championships, followed by silver in the same event at the ASA National Championships. She went on to win the 200m Breaststroke bronze at her first European Junior Championships and was placed 20th at her World Championships senior debut in Shanghai.
But then an unsuccessful appeal following the last Olympic trials meant Molly narrowly missed the chance to compete at London 2012.
“That was hard to go through. My coach wanted to appeal. I was so young. It really knocked my confidence. I actually didn’t know if I even wanted to get back in the pool.
“Then I came to Loughborough and I have had so much support.”
Molly went on to win 200m Breaststroke gold at the 2012 European Junior Championships , silver at the British Championships for the next two years and at her Commonwealth Games debut for England at Glasgow 2014, she won 200m Breaststroke bronze, before taking silver at her senior European Championship debut a month later.
Molly ended 2015 with three gold medals and one silver at the ASA’s winter meet in Sheffield, breaking two British records and rising to second in the world rankings.
The British Swimming Championships in Glasgow saw Molly knock three-tenths of a second off her previous British record with a time of 2:23.56 in the 200m Breaststroke final to claim silver.
“But the trials were not enjoyable. Anything can happen in these races. There are swimmers who have never competed in the Commonwealths or the Worlds but who do something unexpected and break through.
“Also there are not many swimmers who achieve automatic qualification to the Olympics – only eight in a squad of 26.
“So you finish your races and you know your times and you might even have achieved a personal best but you can’t celebrate. You are under consideration but you are not sure of exactly how the selection criteria will work so you just have to wait for days.
“After what happened before I tried not to get my hopes up but of course you can’t help but be hopeful.”
Finally, after a week, the selectors gave Molly their answer. She was within two per cent of the consideration time set by the British Olympic Association. She would be on the plane to Brazil.
“The first emotion was overwhelming relief. I was relieved, my family was relieved. Now I am just so excited. I still can’t quite believe it.”
Molly is training for 30 hours every week in the pool and the gym alongside her BTEC Sport studies at Loughborough College. “It is good to have a change of pace with the academic side of things. I really enjoy it. I actually try not to always relate my essays to swimming .
“The College is great at not making the work add to your pressures. They really understand the way elite sport works and that flexibility is needed around training and competitions.”
“We have elite athletes from a range of sports studying with us and we ensure programmes specifically fit the needs of each individual,” said Ian Cooper, who as Sport Work Related Learning Deputy Manager is part of Loughborough College’s Elite Sport team.
“We deliver high quality learning but, crucially, it is fluid so it fits around the high-level demands of the student’s sport and doesn’t cause any undue stress.
“But it means that alongside their sporting career, the athletes are gaining qualifications as well as valuable life and employability skills which will maximise their future opportunities.”
Alex Bailey works with Molly and British Swimming and is one of more than 20 Performance Lifestyle Advisors across the English Institute of Sport. He liaises closely with Ian Cooper as part of managing the young swimmer’s commitments outside her sport.
“I work as part of a multi-disciplinary team that includes strength and conditioning coaches, sports scientists, physios, psychologists and doctors to support Molly and her coaches. My particular focus is ensuring Molly can manage everything she has going on in her busy life whilst also helping her develop key life skills such as communication, organization and budgeting.
“The idea is to make sure everything fits together to ensure the smooth running of her life inside and outside her training – boosting her preparations for competition while minimizing distractions.
“British Swimming as a whole do all they can to reduce pressures on the swimmers. They have been working closely with the British Olympic Association and have travelled out to Brazil a number of times over the past three to four years building relationships, checking facilities and ensuring the environment will be the best possible for the team when they arrive.”
Until then Molly is training hard. “I’ve had a good season training so I will continue with what I am doing plus build on my fitness again.
“We have to taper it down a bit for the Olympic trials so we are rested and fresh but I am upping it again now. There is lots of long distance in sessions, swimming six or seven kilometres, getting aerobic levels up. Plus I am increasing my time in the gym.
“I am at the pool for 6.45, swimming between 7.30 and 9.30, going to the gym, napping a little, getting back to the pool and training from 4.00 to 6.00. I am eating a lot of protein!
“People ask if I feel I am missing out on socializing but I see friends every day, we go out and eat some evenings. Hopefully I have a long life ahead of me to socialize, this is just a few weeks of that life.”
Next up is a training camp in Mallorca and then competition in Barcelona. “The whole team will be together for that, which will be great.
“We all fly out for our pre Olympic holding camp in Belo Horizonte on 22 July. We have to adjust our training to 12.00-2.00 in the afternoon and 10.00 – midnight because that’s when the heats and finals will be, to fit in with the TV coverage.
“We go to the Olympic village in early August, before the Games begin on the 5th. I will be there for the whole thing, right until the closing ceremony.
“But before that I have my fit for the Rio kit in London. The whole thing is so exciting. It is a dream come true. I have worked so hard for this. It’s the experience of a lifetime.”
Great Britain picked up the most medals at the 2016 European Swimming Championships, which finished on Sunday.
Hungary topped the table with ten golds but won only 19 medals while the British team won 22 medals – seven gold, six silver and nine bronze.
Molly just missed out on a 200m breaststroke medal after a fast start and leading at 50m and 100m at the London Aquatics Centre - reaching halfway in 1min 8.90sec.
But Rikke Moller Pedersen, the world record holder from Denmark, surged past her in the next 50m on her way to winning in 2:21.69. Spain’s Jessica Vall Montero took silver in 2:22.56, while Iceland’s Hrafnhildu Luthersdottir touched in 2:22.96 to Renshaw’s 2:23.18.
Pictured: Loughborough College swimmer Molly Renshaw has been selected for the Rio Olympics
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