British champion swimmer Leah Crisp sure Bath move will bolster her future medal hopes

WAKEFIELD swimmer Leah Crisp admits there are elements of trepidation about her forthcoming move to Bath.

Saturday, 2nd May 2020, 6:00 am
BEST OF BRITISH: City of Leeds swimmer and double national champion, Leah Crisp.

For seven years, Crisp has thrived off a familiar routine centred around Wakefield Girls High School and the City Of Leeds Swimming Club.

It is a routine that led to Crisp becoming a double national champion and a swimmer targeting the Tokyo 2020 Olympics – now they have been put back a year due to the coronavirus pandemic – in addition to her longer term goal of Paris 2024.

In a bid to boost her chances of boarding the plane to Tokyo, it is with a heavy heart that Crisp is leaving the City of Leeds Swimming Club for one of the sport’s national centres in Bath.

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Picture by Allan McKenzie/ - 06/12/2019 - Sport - Swimming - Swim England Winter Championships 2019 - Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, Sheffield, England - Leah Crisp races to gold in the 800m freestyle.

Yet Crisp says she can depart knowing her club is in safe hands under coach Richard Denigan as Crisp prepares to be reunited with another of Denigan’s former Leeds stars and close friend Georgia Coates in Bath.

Rio 2016 Olympian Coates made the move from Leeds to Bath in 2017 and Coates will see a familiar face arriving at her new club, once some sort of normality is restored after the country’s current battle with coronavirus.

Having enjoyed a similar upward trajectory to Coates, Crisp too is now heading for Bath, a move she said made perfect sense considering she will also be undertaking her university studies in the same city.

It is, nevertheless, a big step for a young woman who has only just turned 18 and one who had been extremely comfortable and familiar with her usual routine.

WINNER: Wakefield's Leah Crisp after winning gold in the 800m freestyle at Ponds Forge.

Yet in every aspect possible, Crisp is optimistic the switch will prove the right move with the swimmer confident that for both the Leeds club and her own career the only way is up.

“It’s been absolutely amazing training at Leeds and Richard Denigan has been an amazing coach throughout,” Crisp told The Yorkshire Post.

“I have really felt like a part of the club since I have been there.

“I have been there so long and I have moved up with all my friends and things and with Richard as well. It will be really sad to leave.

Leeds Sports Awards 2020 - First Direct Arena, Leeds, England - Young Sportswoman of the year winner Leah Crisp.

“It was tough because Leeds has been brilliant and I have achieved a lot whilst I have been here.

“I guess I have spent all my years training at Leeds, a good seven years or so, it’s a long time so I just thought maybe it was time to change it up a bit and I know they have got a lot of senior international athletes at Bath.

“Georgia Coates who used to train at Leeds and who I trained with for years is already down there.

“I think she has been down there about three years.

“We are good friends. She is really lovely and great to train with is G, as we all called her, so it will be nice to train with her again.

“And there’s definitely a lot of strong young swimmers coming through at Leeds and a lot of younger girls like Izzy Goodwin who did really well at the summer nationals.

“A lot of them are really starting to come into their own and perform now and they have been great to train with over the past few months. It’s definitely exciting for the future of Leeds.”

As the country continues on lockdown in the fight with Covid-19, Crisp is naturally unsure as to when exactly she will be making her big move.

Yet after a year of stellar progress, there are no doubts as to the swimmer’s next big aim – Tokyo and not Paris 2024 and in the swimming pool and not open water.

Crisp had also been a thriving open water swimmer and the teen had been unsure as to whether to target the 2020 or 2024 Olympics and moreover in which sport.

But 2019’s events and achievements led to Crisp making up her mind up with the City of Leeds Swimming Club star winning the senior 800m and 1500m freestyle at April’s British Swimming Championships before taking four golds in her age category at the British Summer Championships in July.

“I’m definitely focusing in the pool now rather than open water,” said Crisp.

“I went on an open water camp with the Swim England team and during that I really enjoyed the pool sessions a lot more than I did the sea swims.

“It made me realise that I really enjoy the pool more than open water so I thought I was best to switch my focus to that and definitely the 400m and 800m free are my main two priorities at the moment. It’s been good.

“At the summer nationals in the 17 to 18 age group I won all my events.

“I got four golds in that so that was really positive and then at the winter nationals in December I knocked quite a bit off my times so it was looking good.

“I got quite a large PB so it was all looking positive going into this year.

“I was originally thinking more long term towards 2024 but now they have moved Tokyo back a year that’s like an extra opportunity.

“I’d say it’s been an advantage to me, especially because I won’t have A-Levels to do alongside it now.

“That was my concern, having both in the same year but now I have not got them any more so I’d say for me it’s definitely an advantage.”

As recognition for a fine 12 months of success, Crisp was left beaming in March when named young sportswoman of the year at the 2020 Leeds Sports Awards.

Now the swimmer hopes progress will continue in Bath once swimming is finally back up and running with Crisp also targeting the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games in the longer term.

More immediately, Crisp has been busy sorting living arrangements as the Wakefield Girls’ High pupil also awaits news of her A Levels.

“I was meant to have my A Levels coming up but obviously they have changed all that,” said Crisp.

“It’s a bit scary with it now being out of your control. You had all this planning to do revision and past papers and stuff in preparation for your exams and having time to prepare and now it’s done.

“Now I’m currently in the process of organising somewhere to live with some of the other swimmers.

“Originally I was planning on doing halls but with the whole change to the start of the season and things like that and uncertainty to the starting time of uni and things I thought it would be best to move in with some of the swimmers so I know I have got somewhere.

“It is quite scary, especially with it coming quite unexpectedly due to all the closures and stuff.

“It’s not as you had originally planned it happening. But it’s also exciting.

“It will be something different and a change in the routine that I have had in being at the same school and same club.”

Yet for Crisp, Yorkshire will always be home and given her upbringing and rapid progress at her hometown club any future Olympic medal might well be for Bath but moreover the city of Leeds.

“Of course,” smiled Crisp.

“Always Yorkshire.”

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