Leeds swimmer Georgia Coates has never even swam in a senior international meet but in August she heads to Rio. Lee Sobot reports.
LEEDS swimmer Georgia Coates was in pretty deep when juggling education and sporting goals last summer.
Representation at the Junior World Championships in Singapore clashed with taking 12 GCSEs but the teenager passed both with flying colours.
So much so that the 17-year-old is now preparing to juggle AS Levels with being Great Britain’s youngest swimmer at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The Prince Henry Grammar School pupil is still coming to terms with being named as one of 26 swimmers to represent the country in South America. For all that Coates has taken the sport’s junior scene by storm, all those associated with the teenager assumed that Tokyo 2020 would represent the Headingley athlete’s first opportunity to shine on an Olympic stage.
But a superb performance at last month’s British National Championships has further fast-tracked the progression of a swimmer who has been selected to compete in the 4x200m relay after finishing third and crucially in the first four in the 200m freestyle final, in company with Bath’s Jazmin Carlin, Sheffield’s Ellie Faulkner and Glasgow’s Camilla Hattersley.
Carlin, Faulkner and Hattersley are aged 25, 23 and 21 respectively, and are set to be joined by a young sensation still doing her schoolwork and for whom an Olympic call has yet to sink in.
“I just can’t believe it,” Coates told The Yorkshire Post. “I knew that I could maybe get in but I was just going in and seeing what I could do. I knew that the four by two would be a chance for me and I got into the final first.
“I just had to try and stay with them and, going through, my family couldn’t believe it because they thought that if I had a chance it would be more 2020. All of my friends, I still don’t think they really understand. They are like ‘how have you got there?!’ because I am quite young still.
“Everyone has been so supportive and nice about it. I’ve been able to get medals at junior level but I never thought two years ago I would be going to the Olympics. I would never, ever have thought that. I have improved quite a lot in this last year but I never thought that this would happen, that I would get the chance to even try and get there.
“I have never competed at a senior level so I don’t know how fast it’s going to be. I am just going to go in there and see what I can do!”
Under the watchful eye of head coach Rich Denigan, Coates’ City of Leeds Swimming Club train alongside the City of Leeds Diving Club who have sent a plethora of divers to recent Olympics. Now the swimmers are threatening to follow suit with Coates the club’s first Olympian since Gavin Meadows represented his country at Athens in 2004.
Claire Huddart was the last female to represent the Leeds club at the Olympics at Sydney 2000 but Sophie Taylor bagged a gold and silver at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealths before going on sabbatical. Lalya Black, Ciara Schlosshan and Amelia Clynes are also all heading to this summer’s European Juniors.
Coates beamed: “It’s nice to have people coming through in swimming because it’s always been the diving.
“To also have three people going to the European Juniors is great because it just seems like we are going from strength to strength.”
Remarkably, Coates is also going from strength to strength in the classroom – despite having to sit one of last year’s GCSEs whilst competing at the European Games in Baku.
Incredibly, the talented youngster sat 12 GCSEs and bagged three A Stars, six As and 2 Bs.
Coates pondered: “It is hard but I am just going to take it as it goes because swimming is something I am doing now. School can always come later if it doesn’t quite work out!”