Talented Leeds teenager Georgia Coates is relishing making her Olympics debut at the tender age of just 17. Lee Sobot reports.
CITY OF LEEDS Swimming Club star Georgia Coates is used to continually shifting focus from education to sport.
This is, after all, the girl who sat one of her GCSEs at the European Games in Azerbaijan.
Highly appropriate then that the chilled out teenager is stress-free about getting her AS level results whilst representing Team GB at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Coates, 17, is one of four Yorkshire swimmers to have already landed in South America ahead of this summer’s spectacular which will be launched with next Friday’s opening ceremony in the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Team GB’s swimmers will then be among the first set of athletes out of the blocks with competition beginning the following day and ending on Tuesday, August 16.
Just two days later, Prince Henry’s Grammar School pupil Coates will be able to discover her AS level results – but it speaks volumes about the mind-set of the talented teen that immediate thoughts after competition have subsided will be on savouring the other sights and sports of Rio. It follows that the relaxed swimmer also feels no pressure or expectation to bring home a medal – having exceeded all expectations to be on the cusp of her Games debut at just 17 years of age.
“I can’t remember the date of my results but it’s some time in August,” Coates says with a relaxed attitude.
“I’m doing maths, art and biology and we actually get the results back when we’re in Rio but I’ll probably wait until I get back – or I might ask my mum to send me them. I’m not sure yet. I haven’t decided.
“I’ve done all I can do now, there’s nothing I can to do to change it and I’m almost forgetting about school for now and just focusing on the swimming.
“It’s quite an advantage having swimming in the first week as well as it means that we can go out and watch other sports as well like the athletics and we will obviously be going to see the open water guys as well.”
First, though, all eyes will be on Coates, along with her three Yorkshire based team-mates in Max Litchfield, Aimee Wilmott and Ellie Faulkner, who will join her in the 4 x 200m relay.
Coates will also compete in the 200m freestyle and is unsure of what to expect and aim for at not only her first Olympics but moreover one of her first international competitions as a senior.
“I have done European Short Course, European Long Course and World Cups but that’s about it,” admits Coates, assessing her senior experience so far.
“It’s obviously a lot harder, it’s so much faster but I think I’m enjoying it so much because there’s so many people to aspire to that are so fast.
“These are the top people in the world.
“Obviously, I think about getting a medal a bit but I am not going in there thinking ‘I’ve got to get a medal’ because I know that I’m an outsider.
“I am not expected to get a medal and I think I’m just going to go in there and see what happens, with the relay team especially.
“We’ll just hopefully make a final and then you never know what can happen in a race.”
What is certain, though, is that Coates has already exceeded her initial expectations in becoming one of 366 Team GB athletes to board the plane to Rio.
Even after winning a raft of medals as a junior, the teenager always considered that the realisation of Olympics experience would have to wait until Tokyo 2020, at which the swimmer will likely be approaching the peak of her powers at 21 years of age.
Growing up, though, the Leeds youngster did not even have any plans to be a swimmer.
Coates explained: “I was just doing all the normal lessons in Kirkstall and then when we went to have school lessons this person picked me out to say ‘maybe you could go to a talent camp.’
“I went to that and then I got picked to start the first stage of the Leeds training scheme and I have just built myself up from there.
“I never thought from a really young age I want to do swimming, it was just something that happened.
“To be honest, I think it’s only really been in the past few years when I’ve started to make international teams and it’s really built my confidence.
“Especially so with being able to make the transition to senior level because that’s something that a lot of people struggle with.
“To really just manage to do that is fantastic.
“I’ve never been on a team where I’m the youngest before but it’s nice.
“Everyone in the team looks after me because sometimes there’s a lot of new things that happen that I haven’t really done before.
“I’ve met a few of them on other teams before so it’s nice to know a few of them.”
By making her Games debut aged just 17, Coates is certainly announcing herself loud and clear, but even with the newfound sporting stardom education does, deep down, remain at the forefront of her mind.
Straight after Rio, the teenager will return to Prince Henry’s to finish her A2 levels – and by the time Tokyo 2020 comes around, she hopes to have completed a degree.
Coates pondered: “I want to make another Olympics, obviously, and that’s my goal to keep going but I want to go to uni as well.
“I’m not sure where yet but I definitely want to go to uni and have that so that if something doesn’t go to plan I have a job as well! Tokyo would be the aim and I’d love to do the one in 2024 but it’s quite far away at the moment so I never know.
“But I’ll be aiming for that – I want to try and do as many as I can!”