Faulkner and Turner leading the next generation of pool talent

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With Joanne Jackson retired and Rebecca Adlington still weighing up her future, the pool is open for the next great friendly rivalry in British swimming.

Step forward Ellie Faulkner and Becky Turner, two young South Yorkshire women with all the tools necessary to fill the swimming caps of Northallerton’s Jackson and her honour-laden compatriot Adlington.

Faulkner, 19, from Sheffield and Turner, 20, from Rotherham, made their Olympic debuts in the summer and are in Istanbul this week for the world short-course championships.

It is the first major step on the road to Rio, and while the two City of Sheffield swimmers have not yet broken through the international medal barrier as Jackson and Adlington had done by this stage, they are showing all the determination needed to follow their vaunted rivals to stardom.

What they share in common with the queens of the pool is their blow-for blow progression through the junior ranks of freestyle swimming.

What they have over Jackson and Adlington – who shared 33 major medals – is that they train together at Ponds Forge, a luxury their predecessors never enjoyed. They are also both in their first year at Sheffield Hallam University together.

“It’s great that we’ve got each other to push each other on,” says Turner, who alongside Faulkner trains for over four hours a day.

“We all train hard here. This is one of the toughest squads in the UK. We’re all pushing each other to do better, me and Ellie especially.”

“We’re at each other’s necks if we do something wrong,” continues Faulkner, “getting each other to knuckle down.”

Faulkner and Turner did not have long to bask in the post-Olympic glow, with university starting just over a month after they had finished competing in London, and training starting soon after with the short-course season in mind.

Adlington raised the bar for British swimming with her ground-breaking Olympic debut in Beijing when she won two gold medals.

Neither Faulkner nor Turner could live up to those standards, with Faulkner failing to progress in the heats of the 800m freestyle and Turner likewise in the 200m freestyle. But they both played their part in the 4x200m freestyle relay team that finished fifth in the final and with the squad evolving post London, could become regular fixtures in that team over the next four-year cycle.

“It was amazing to experience the Olympics in your home country; we’ve got four more years now to try get there again,” says Faulkner, who also swims in open water races. “The 800 was a disappointment for me, but to even swim at the Olympic Games is an achievement in itself. It wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, but I was battling with illness a few days before and that’s never going to help.

“The timing of the illness was frustrating, but I tried not to let it affect me too greatly.”

Turner, who swam the vital anchor leg in the 4x100m relay semi-final and in the final of the 4x200m, adds: “It was great to be a part of the atmosphere and be surrounded by some of the world’s best athletes.

“I think we rose to the occasion. The 4x200m I was really pleased with. We just swam our best. That’s all we could do really.”

Both will have busy schedules over the next five days in the Turkish capital.

While the 25m pool might not be the standard 50m used at the bigger meets, it still requires mental sharpness and is an exacting test of the skills honed in the early hours at Ponds Forge on chilly winter mornings.

“Short-course swimming is much faster paced, because you have to get out there quicker,” explains Turner.

“If you hold back a bit you can get caught up in the waves.

“It’ll be good fun. We both swam well last year at the European short-course and I’m hoping to replicate what I did last year.

“Finals are well within reach and it would be fantastic to finish this year with a medal.”

Faulkner adds: “It’s another step on the ladder. We’ve done a few European short-course events and they’ve been great experiences, but this is a step higher now and with the world championships in Barcelona next summer on the horizon, it’s one we hope to do well in.”

They will be joined in the 19-strong squad in Istanbul – which is headlined by Olympic silver medallist Michael Jamieson – by another City of Sheffield swimmer, Dewsbury’s two-time European junior champion Matthew Johnson, 17, who is making his first appearance at a major senior meet.

With another teenage Olympian, Middlesbrough’s Aimee Willmott, medalling at the European short-course championships last month, and these two South Yorkshirewomen repeatedly getting the best out of each other, the future of British swimming certainly looks to be in very safe hands in the county of Yorkshire.

nick.westby@ypn.co.uk