Shortly after he returned from competition, I caught up with second year Russian and German student, Tom Fort, to learn a little bit about competitive swimming at St. Andrews and how he got here.
How did you first get into competitive swimming?
I first got into competitive swimming when I was quite young; I was probably six years old when I started my first club. It was something I enjoyed doing, sort of because I was never a runner! When I was younger, swimming wasn’t something I could really do on my own – you needed a pool, and parents there, and everything like that, and in that way it’s not a very accessibly sport really… but that’s how I got into my team, you had to commit a little bit. And I liked it so much! I lived in quite a small area but we were fortunate enough to have a swim team and me and a few of my friends from school all started to swim together very young.
How is it being on the St. Andrews swim team?
One of the big things that I like about swimming here is we have both a competitive team, and development and recreation. People can still take part without necessarily having the commitment if that’s not what they want. Those sessions are frequent, too, they’re not just now and then; swimming here doesn’t simply focus on the competitive team, it accommodates for all abilities.
Aside from just swimming in general, being on the team is fantastic. Now with fewer Covid rules when it comes to indoor sports, we can attend competitions, which weren’t on when I was in first year. The team are very friendly – I was made to feel so welcome when I first started. We do a social every week, and it’s a nice way to branch out and meet new people.
What does a week's training look like?
Usually, we have an hour in the pool on a Monday night, an hour in the gym on a Wednesday, another hour in the pool that night, and then we have a two-hour session in Cupar on a Saturday (normally we would swim at St Leonard’s but it’s not available). It’s in four hours total in the water a week over three sessions.
What is your specialty in the pool?
My specialty stroke is freestyle or butterfly, but I like all of them (except breaststroke!) Then again, when we do competitions, it’s down to who’s the fastest. I dive, too – I might not be the best on the team but it’s something I enjoy doing!
How has this season gone so far?
Well ... It’s nice to be able to attend competitions, as that wasn’t possible in my first year. We’ve gone to Stirling, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee - it’s nice to be able to connect to other teams throughout Scotland, and even meeting and competing means it’s been a better season than last, just because it’s been such a different season. We’ve done very well so far, with a few wins – we had a meet today (16th February) against Aberdeen and Dundee, and came second after Dundee but ahead of Aberdeen. We’ve also been down to England for bigger competitions, too.
In swimming, you don’t simply judge results from how well St Andrews does as a team, but it’s also about the individual achievements. I myself have had some record times this semester which has been fantastic, on top of the wider team, as a whole and individuals, doing well too.
What are your hopes for the rest of the season?
My hope is that we can continue with competitions (we’re going to Edinburgh on 28th February, so hoping for a good result there). I want to see the team do well – success at team and individual level are equally important – but I also have goals to being down times I’ve set earlier in the semester and the year. I also want to build fitness and confidence on a personal level – it helps to have a continuous and uninterrupted period of fitness where you can just track how you’re doing.
Do you have any other sporting talents?
I’m quite a big skier! I first skied at 5 – and it’s one of those sports where it’s not easy to do, although there are some places in Scotland where you can go. It’s something I do enjoy doing, and another one of my passions. Haven’t been able to do it in a while but hopefully will be able to do so again soon!
Image: Tom Fort