Leeds swimming star Crisp relishing step up to the senior ranks

SWIMMING star Leah Crisp admits things are now getting serious as she aims for the top after standing alongside hero Lizzie Simmonds at a charity event at the House of Commons.

Leah Crisp.
Leah Crisp.

The Leeds swimmer was just 10 when she cheered on Simmonds at the London Olympics in 2012 but now the 16-year-old has her own trail to blaze as she prepares to break into the senior team.

The teenager rounded off her junior career in the pool with a sixth-place finish at the European Youth Championships, combining a rigorous training programme with sitting her GCSEs.

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But Crisp, who won gold in the 400m freestyle at the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2017, cannot wait to make the next step up and has her eye firmly set on challenging for a medal at the British Championships in 2019.

Lizzie Simmonds.

She said: “I’ve now become a senior in the pool and so I want to break into the senior ranks. I’m also going to swim open water because I’m still a junior in that discipline so my aim in that is to make the European Junior Championships going forward, that’s very exciting.

“It’s quite scary because you used to have a competition within your own age band and now I’m going to be racing against any age so it’s quite daunting.

“But it’s the way sport works and it might take a year or two until you get into the seniors but as long as you put the hard work in you’ll eventually be able to make it. Next year we have the British Championships. I’d love to get a medal if I can, that’s the aim. The 800m or 1,500m freestyle are the two medals I’m aiming for. Then it’s the qualifying for the European Junior Open Water Championships so they’re the main two big ones for me.

“I want to keep improving my times. This is a point in your career when you start to plateaux a little bit. I’ve had a bit of a plateaux year in the last year so it will be good if I can come back stronger.

“The next year isn’t as critical in the racing but more in the training. It’s critical that I train with my best abilities in every session and work my hardest and then eventually the results will come.”

Crisp got the opportunity to stand alongside Simmonds, a two-time European Championship gold medallist, at the House of Commons in a Q&A with the charity SportsAid, thanks to their new partnership with GVC Holdings.

The charity has helped British sporting stars for the last 40 years and Crisp hopes the funding she’s received, coupled with meeting Simmonds, will help take her career to the next level.

The City of Leeds Swimming Club member said: “I was quite nervous actually speaking in front of so many people at the House of Commons.

“I was one of the youngest here so it was quite weird talking in front of adults who all looked very professional but it was a nice environment and SportsAid do a great job.

“I was standing next to Lizzie [Simmonds] and I went to watch her in London so it’s kind of crazy to go from that to a few years later being stood next to her at SportsAid event doing interviews, it’s a bit surreal.

“It’s also a bit of a reality check and it’s like, I’m no longer the little kid that’s looking up to all these athletes, you’re slowly becoming one of them.

“I really hope one day that I will be able to make a senior team because that’s the goal. Once you get into that environment of the seniors it’s going to push me even further to make that and succeed in that.”

GVC is proud to be championing the next generation of British athletes by providing them with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. Please visit https://gvc-plc.com to find out more about the Group.