COACH Richard Denigan says “the sky’s the limit” for City Of Leeds Swimming Club star Sophie Taylor.
The teenager is about to leave the club for London but Denigan says the Commonwealth Games star leaves with the city’s best wishes – and with predictions the teenager can reach the top three in the world.
Taylor, 18, made international headlines when winning a gold medal in Monday’s 100m breaststroke at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. In doing so, the teenager set a new British record. And Denigan is confident that more records will follow as the former The Grammar School At Leeds pupil prepares for a new chapter of her life down south.
Taylor, who was born in Sheffield but now lives in Harrogate, will move to London in September to join a new club and swim permanently at the Aquatics Centre in the capital. It means Denigan’s City Of Leeds Swimming Club are about to lose their prized possession – just when the long wait for a senior medal at a major competition has been ended.
But in Georgia Coates and Amelia Clynes, the Leeds club has two more potential swimming stars who will dream of one day emulating Taylor. Denigan told the YEP: “I didn’t know what to expect from Sophie to be honest because she has not had a great preparation through injury.
“You kind of don’t know what you are going to get when the preparation has been not ideal but the one thing I do know is that she is a great racer, she loves racing and she does prefer the 100m to any other event. She’s put her all into that and in terms of the time and the performance, the time was kind of unexpected!
“It was a little bit quicker than I thought she could go but in terms of how she swam the race it was executed the way we always try and train and in terms of her last 25 to 20 metres, that’s just how we try and train in the training pool at Leeds. All those years of work of what we have been doing for the last four and a half years has kind of all come together.
“Personally, Sophie’s success just epitomises everything that we have been trying to do over the last few years. All the hours of training, all the competitions abroad, all the sessions we have done, all the going up and down the country, it’s paid off. In terms of the club, the Leeds programme have not had an international senior medallist for a while – since probably Terry Denison’s days so that puts us back on the map of senior swimming really.
“Hopefully it kind of tells the rest of Britain and the rest of the world that we can produce these type of athletes still and that the system does work.”
Taylor – who has been taking a sports studies distance learning course through Loughborough College – arrived at the City Of Leeds Swimming Club in 2009 after leaving Harrogate Swimming Club in search of a new challenge. Now a new chapter is about to begin in London and Denigan expects big things.
“The sky’s the limit really,” said the Leeds coach.
“If she gets some good preparation in and stays fit and healthy then the experience that she’s gained from these games – she goes to the European Championships in the summer as well with myself – all these experiences over the next 18 months are going to do her well for the big one in Rio. If she stays clear of injury and has a full bill of health then she can move on to top three, four, five in the world hopefully.”
Any such success will come for a new club but Denigan can understand the starlet’s decision to relocate – and knows that part of Taylor will always lie with Leeds and Yorkshire. Denigan reasoned: “Sophie thought that she needed a new challenge and she’s ben in Yorkshire all her life. I think that swimming in the aquatics pool in London is a big pull for her and she’s already had success there in the Olympic trials. I just think the temptation of moving away and a new challenge in that facility is attractive to her. We wish her all the luck in the world and we’re still very proud of the achievements that she’s had with Leeds. She goes with her blessing and our full support.”
And memories, most notably of a glorious night at Glasgow.