Golden girl Leah Crisp sets sights on Tokyo Olympics

City of Leeds Swimming Club's Leah Crisp with the two gold medals she won at the British Championships last month.
City of Leeds Swimming Club's Leah Crisp with the two gold medals she won at the British Championships last month.
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Leeds swimmer Leah Crisp had fairly straightforward aims ahead of last month’s British Championships in Glasgow.

In her first British Champs as a senior, the 17-year-old who also competes as an open water swimmer merely wanted to chalk up a few overdue personal bests in the pool.

Leah Crisp training at the John Charles Centre in Leeds. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Leah Crisp training at the John Charles Centre in Leeds. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Two golds and a silver medal later, it’s fair to say Crisp exceeded her own expectations with the teen now left pondering whether to compete in the pool or open water en route to the Paris 2024 Olympics or maybe even Tokyo next year.

Wakefield Girls’ High School pupil Crisp has been making strong progress at the City Of Leeds Swimming Club with the teenager sixth in the 400m freestyle at last summer’s Junior Europeans in Helsinki.

Yet the teen has also been making waves as a 10km swimmer representing Great Britain as a junior in open water which is also an Olympic sport.

Given her age, Olympics-wise, Crisp naturally considered that Paris 2024 would likely present her ultimate chance to shine by which time the Leeds ace would be 22 years old.

In the back of my mind Tokyo 2020 is a goal that I can aim for.

Leah Crisp

Now, though, fresh from the stellar success at the nationals, Crisp is not ruling out a tilt at Tokyo 2020 with the City Of Leeds Swimming Club star only unsure if that would be in open water or the pool.

Crisp explained: “They are both in the Olympic programme and I am just doing both and seeing if I can decide what I enjoy more because I do really enjoy doing both – pool and the open water.

“Having done good PBs at the nationals, I am now moving up in the pool rankings so you don’t want to yet commit to open water, you want to see what you can do in the pool. I’ve got the positions now, I just need to get quicker and get closer to the consideration times and qualifications times that British Swimming set.

“There will be a time when you have to commit to one because obviously the training for open water is a little bit different in the fact that you are training for 10km instead of a 400m. I might give it another few years!

Leah Crisp. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Leah Crisp. Picture: Tony Johnson.

“But in the back of my mind Tokyo is a goal that I can aim for and I’ll see where I am after the summer nationals in the pool this summer. Then I can decide next year because I am still a junior in open water and there will be a World Juniors in open water next year.”

In the pool, this summer’s main event is the World Championships which, a still developing Crisp, missed selection for though this summer’s nationals will provide another perfect opportunity to impress. There are also plenty of targets in the open water sphere.

Crisp explained: “The aim for the end of this season was to go back into open water and I’m part of the GB Junior racing squad.

“I did an LEN European Cup a few weeks ago in Israel which was my first ever 10km swim and I have got another one of those in Barcelona in June. There’s also a Lake Windermere Great North Swim which is qualification for European Juniors.” Time, though, is ticking on towards Tokyo, and Crisp knows if current progress in the pool is continued then she might just be there.

Crisp reasoned: “I’ll be 18 by the time Tokyo is here and 22 by the time the Paris Olympics is here and both of them are prime ages to go. Originally I was thinking Paris but since I have seen that I can knock off big chunks of time then Tokyo is a bit in my mind. If I can continue this momentum for the next few meets then I do have a chance.”

Crisp’s three-medal haul at last month’s nationals formed part of a fine meeting for the City of Leeds Swimming Club with Rebecca Clynes also taking bronze in the 50m breaststroke and 100m breaststroke junior as well as silver in the 200m individual medley junior.

Isabelle Goodwin also walked away with a bronze in the 100m butterfly junior while Jonathan Milner, Ciara Schlosshan, Kidiest Hodgson and Leah Schlosshan all made finals.

It all means yet more success for the City Of Leeds Swimming Club following the big waves made by former members Sophie Taylor, Georgia Coates and Layla Black.

Crisp said: “I have been in the top squads at Leeds since that era so I have moved through when it has been a really successful club with loads of really successful international swimmers and it’s nice to now be at the top of the that.

“You hear quite a few parents or little kids when they have got out of the pool after training, one of the nine year olds will go ‘that’s Leah over there.’ It’s really nice to be there and be the one that the younger ones look up to.”

Now, if all goes well later next month, Crisp will be in a position to give them a lift.

In between studying A-levels in economics, maths and physics, Crisp is also learning to drive and is rather more relaxed about her forthcoming practical test then she would be for a national final.

Crisp reasoned: “Some of it with the swimming is that you know how many hours you have put into that race so your nerves come from wanting to do well so badly to show that all your hard work was worth it. The driving is nowhere near as nerve racking!”