Nine-time Paralympic gold-medallist Sophie Pascoe is among a world-class New Zealand squad training at the University of Bath ahead of the 2019 World Para-Swimming Championships in London.
Rio 2016 Paralympians Tupou Neiufi, Hamish McLean and Jesse Reynolds are also joined by Chris Arbuthnott and Celyn Edwards in a six-strong squad who are finalising their preparations at the University’s £35million Sports Training Village until September 6.
As well as training in the 50m London 2012 Legacy Pool and using the Team Bath Gym & Fitness Centre for strength and conditioning work, the squad and their seven support staff are staying on campus and have turned their accommodation into a small corner of New Zealand complete with flags and bunting.
Pascoe – who won three gold medals at each of the Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games – is New Zealand’s most decorated Paralympian and will be among the leading contenders again in London after setting four World Records at the New Zealand Open Championships this summer.
“This is my first time in Bath and it’s a beautiful city,” said Pascoe. “The people have been so nice and friendly, and I’m enjoying the University facilities – great pool, great training complex and great being able to stay on campus.
“I’m really excited to be going back to the London Aquatic Centre. I haven’t been there since the 2012 Paralympic Games but I obviously have very fond memories. These World Championships are a qualifying event for Tokyo 2020 so all the top swimmers are going to be there and we’re expecting a very high level of competition. It’s about showing where we are ahead of next year.”
While it is Pascoe’s first time in Bath, Team Leader Graeme Maw is no stranger to the University or the area after being born and raised in Bristol. He was also Performance Director for British Triathlon and Director of Sport at Millfield School in Somerset, and had no doubt where he wanted the team to be based when the World Championships were switched from Malaysia to London earlier this year.
“Once the decision had been made, I very quickly put a call into [Director of Sport] Stephen Baddeley at the University to ask about having our final preparation camp here,” said Maw.
“Myself, logistics manager Jodi Cossor and our head coach have all worked in England and know the British swimming and university sporting landscape quite well. We wanted to be within a couple of hours of London and in a campus environment where we could stay in self-catering accommodation and walk to the pool, not have to worry about transport.
“The set-up here ticked all of those boxes and Stephen was fantastic when I got in touch. It was short notice but everyone has helped to make it work and thank you to the British Swimming National Centre and University student swimming club based here who have been very helpful in providing lane space.
“It has been great looking across into the other lanes and seeing some of Britain’s top swimmers and triathletes in training too.”
Triple Paralympic gold-medallist Cameron Leslie is joining up with the New Zealand squad when they arrive in London.
The World Para-Swimming Championships are taking place at the London Aquatic Centre – a 2012 Paralympic venue – from September 9-15. Among those representing Great Britain are University of Bath Honorary Graduate Ellie Simmonds and reigning Paralympic champion Stephanie Millward, who trains in the London 2012 Legacy Pool with Team Bath AS.
The 50m pool at the University of Bath is open to the public, as well as international swimmers. Visit www.teambath.com/swimming to find out more.
Lead photo shows from left: Chris Arbuthnott, Jesse Reynolds and Sophie Pascoe at the University of Bath’s London 2012 Legacy Pool; and picture of Jesse Reynolds (front), Sophie Pascoe and Hamish McLean in training.
Courtesy of the University of Bath Press Office at Matchtight