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Freddy Mayhew, Senior reporter
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
The best swimmers from England and Wales can be seen training in the Olympic Park in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games this week.
Their intensive coaching sessions are causing some disruption to more casual pool-goers, with the London Aquatics Centre closed to the public for just over seven hours a day, split over the morning and afternoon.
Speaking to Parklife, England swimming’s head coach Jon Rudd said the teams had chosen the former Olympic Pool because it is “the best swimming facility in the country”, adding there was a “magic” about it.
“You walk into an Olympic venue and you feel that magic,” he said. “We are definitely hoping that some of it rubs off [on the team].”
In his new role since September last year, Mr Rudd described the centre’s atmosphere as “calm and serene” and said it had a “calming effect” as soon as you enter.
6am – 7.30am open to public
7.30am – 11am closed for training
11am – 3.30pm open to public
3.30pm – 7.30pm closed for training
7.30pm to 10.30pm open to public
Some 63 athletes trained at the pool from July 12 to 20, with 39 representing England and 24 representing Wales. None of them are yet based in London.
The Commonwealth Games are the only time England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland compete against each other, with swimmers otherwise competing together as part of Team GB.
England’s Andrew Willis, said coming back to the pool where he competed in the 200m breastroke final at London 2012 was a “surreal” experience.
“I thought the pool had moved,” he admitted on returning last week, adding he was “so in the Olympic bubble” and “so focused” he couldn’t fully recall the venue’s layout.
Olympic swimmer Chris Walker-Hebborn, 24, from Enfield, said the aquatics centre was the “best pool I have ever swam in by far”.
He said: “We have never seen anything like it, it’s brand-spanking new, I have just never seen a pool like it, it’s my favourite.
“The last time I was here [for the Olympics] it was pretty nerve-wracking and pretty special at the same time.”
Groups from schools in Newham and Tower Hamlets have been invited to watch the teams train.
The Commonwealth Games, in Glasgow, will officially open on July 23 and run until August 3.