Interview: Georgia Coates is driving on to achieve her world ambition

LEEDS swimmer Georgia Coates would be forgiven for taking a blasé attitude towards next week's bid to seal qualification for the World Championships.

MAKING A SPLASH: Leeds swimmer Georgia Coates, during a training session at the City Of Leeds Swimming Club. Picture: James Hardisty.

This is, after all, a girl who conquered qualification for the Olympic Games at just 17 years of age.

“Every now and again I just think: ‘oh, I have been to the Olympics’,” remarks the teenager. “It feels odd.”

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Yet she insists next week’s qualification bid will be just as tough as qualifying for Rio as Coates aims to take her career up a gear just two weeks after passing her driving test.

FORWARD PLANNING: Georgia Coates. Picture: James Hardisty.

Coates, who turned 18 in February, was the youngest member of Team GB’s swimming squad in Rio with the City of Leeds Swimming Club star surpassing all expectations by qualifying for the 200m freestyle in which she finished 27th.

A third-placed finish in the 200m freestyle at last year’s British Championships sealed the swimmer’s ticket to Rio and something similar at next weekend’s British Championships in Sheffield would earn selection to represent Team GB at July’s World Championships in Budapest.

Coates could be in for another busy year given that the coming months will also see her sit her A-Levels at Prince Henry’s Grammar School.

Yet even as an Olympian, Coates is refusing to take lightly the task of qualifying, even though she is already a far stronger athlete than the one that boarded the plane to Rio last year.

AIMING TO BE NO 1: Eighteen-year-old City of Leeds Swimming Club Olympian Georgia Coates preparing at the John Charles Centre for Sport for the British Championships and World Championship trials in Sheffield next week. Picture: James Hardisty

“I definitely feel like I have improved since last year,” Coates told The Yorkshire Post.

“I have got a lot stronger in the gym, I feel like I have grown a lot more and I think going to the Olympics has made me want to do it all again and want it more.

“But qualifying for the Worlds is so hard.

“While obviously I qualified for the Olympics, it doesn’t make it any easier qualifying for the Worlds.

FORWARD PLANNING: Georgia Coates. Picture: James Hardisty.

“You still have to get those times and I think people seeing other people qualifying for the Olympics has made them want it more so I feel like it is going to be just as hard to qualify for the Worlds as it was for the Olympics.

“Everyone looks at the Olympics as the biggest event but the Worlds is still massive and to do well there is almost just as big because you are still racing the same people and there’s extra events as well.”

Coates will have four chances of qualifying for the Worlds as she is competing in the 200m freestyle, 200m breaststroke, 200m individual medley and the 100m freestyle at next week’s nationals.

A top-two finish in any event will bag her a ticket, providing she is within the qualification time.

AIMING TO BE NO 1: Eighteen-year-old City of Leeds Swimming Club Olympian Georgia Coates preparing at the John Charles Centre for Sport for the British Championships and World Championship trials in Sheffield next week. Picture: James Hardisty

After securing two bronzes at last year’s event – having also finished third in the 200m breaststroke – the teenager is quietly hopeful of upgrading to silver or even gold.

“It would be good to achieve a better medal,” said Coates. “I think my 200 is definitely my strongest distance. The 100 free is something just so I don’t have too many days off in the meet.

“But the others, they are all as strong as each other. I’ll just have to see really. Sometimes one event goes better than the other but it’s good because out of all the different strokes, if one is not so good on the day then I still have other strokes.”

Thereafter, a different type of stroke will await – brush strokes with Coates in the final throes of her A-levels in art, biology and maths.

The 18-year-old is already looking into the possibility of going to university with design, textiles and architecture all possible degrees.

But any choice will be made with her swimming in mind considering that even by the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Coates will only be 21.

She is quite literally living life in the fast lane having also recently passed her driving test at the first attempt.

Her achievement was music to the ears of her parents who will no longer have to provide lifts to training at 5am.

“I have just got a car so that has made life so much easier – to be able to drive,” said Coates.

“I passed last week so that was really good and it was especially good to get it done before my exams and before all the major meets.

“I will have my freedom but also I will be able to help out my parents a lot with taking myself to training so they won’t have to take me on my early mornings or anything like that.”

Pondering her long-term ambitions, the swimmer reasoned: “It has crossed my mind, the amount of Olympics I could do, but I think you just have to take it each year as it goes because you never know what can happen.

“You just enjoy every opportunity that you get because you never know what might change.

“Obviously, being Olympic or world champion is a goal that I would love to achieve but just to even get a medal would just be incredible.

“I think it’s about taking each step at a time. First, I’d like to make a final and see where that takes me.”