Swimming: Baku medalist Coates all set to take on the world
LEEDS prospect Georgia Coates will have been in Thailand upon discovering her GCSE results this week.
But that’s nothing for the girl who sat her final exam in Azerbaijan having made the grade in both studies and swimming as part of a glorious 2015.
Coates, 16, is one of the star acts among a group of talented young athletes making waves under coach Richard Denigan at the City Of Leeds Swimming Club.
The Prince Henry’s Grammar School ace bagged two silvers and three bronze medals in relays at June’s European Games in Baku and is now the city’s sole representative heading to next week’s Junior World Championships in Singapore.
First comes a week’s training camp in Thailand with Coates quickly becoming accustomed to travelling abroad and ultimately dreaming of boarding the plane to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, if not Rio 2016.
Realistically, individual medley and freestyle specialist Coates knows that next year’s Games in South America will probably come too soon, with the Headingley-based star likely to be at the peak of her powers as a 20-year-old for Tokyo 2020. But that’s not to say the swimmer has abandoned hope for making the main stage next year with Coates having so far passed 2015 with flying colours – both in the pool and even in the classroom in Baku.
Coates told the YEP: “I’ve just done my GCSEs and it’s been quite a hard year with my exams and everything so I’m so pleased with how I’ve done.
“I knew it was going to be tough but my exams went all right! I’ve done 12 GCSEs and I think normally you might do nine or ten but I did further maths and things like that and I did one of my exams in Baku while I was out for the European Games.
“The exam was quite late on so I went to an international school out there and did my exam – further maths.
“It was quite odd and because you are not in a school environment it almost feels like you are not in a proper exam but I just tried to get my bearings and do my best and get over the jet lag and everything!
“I’m just trying to balance them both really – swimming and studies – I’m doing A-levels next year and it seems to have worked up to now balancing them both. Sometimes if I have something important with swimming I put that first and it’s just the balance in getting them both. I really like it at Prince Henry’s.”
Assessing her Olympic dreams, Coates admitted: “It’s probably a bit too early for Rio but you never rule it out because if you believe you won’t then you won’t I suppose. I’m going in with an open mind.
“They have the British Champs in April which is where you qualify for all that so that is probably the biggest competition next year because that’s the qualifier for everything.
“That’s when the seniors will be trying to qualify for the Olympics and if I was to make Rio that would just be completely amazing.
“But I’m not expecting anything at all because obviously British swimming is going so well at the moment with the world champs just gone in which we got so many more medals than in previous years.
“I’ll just go in with an open mind and see what happens.
“By Tokyo 2020 I’ll be 20 which is a good age for me and that’s the one that I’m probably aiming for the most.
“I’ll be the right age and I’m just building up to it.”
The teenager certainly looked in excellent shape at this summer’s European Games in which Leeds club mates Amelia Clynes and Layla Black and also returned home with medals, Clynes bagging two silvers and a bronze with Black scooping two bronzes. Coates relished her involvement at the European Games and is now counting down the days to her first tournament on a world scale in Singapore next week.
The Yorkshire star will be the sole swimmer from Leeds at the Junior Worlds yet forms part of a hugely talented group of youngsters from the city waiting to blossom.
Coates is also delighted that the city’s swimmers are now making a splash alongside Leeds’ hugely revered divers.
“We have a lot of good younger swimmers at Leeds and we are starting to really come through into the senior ranks which is great,” said Coates.
“Also, it has been female dominant for the last few years but some of the boys are really starting to come through as well which is great.
“At the nationals we had boys like Myles (Stirk) and Danny Hall – there’s a few of them who are all coming through and there’s a lot of younger girls like Sophie Hobbah who went to the European Youth Olympic Festival this year as well and Ciara (Scholssan) and Leah (Crisp). There’s a lot of young ones coming through as well so it’s really great.
“It’s always been hard with the divers being so successful but we’re starting to come back!”
Looking ahead to her forthcoming world assignment, Coates continued: “I’ve never done anything on a world scale before, I’ve just done Europeans so it’s something that’s a lot different.
“I’ll be racing against the USA and China so it will be a lot different. This is going to be the hardest competition but I’m feeling excited because it’s a completely different thing for me.
“I’m just going to go in there and try and my best.
“I don’t know what it’s going to be like so I’ll just go out there and see what happens.
“There’s no-one else going from Leeds but Layla Black is going to the Youth Commonwealth Games in September.
“I think you get put on a long list for the Junior Worlds but it’s quite hard to get on because there’s a lot of ‘fly swimmers which is what Amelia is. Only one can go from each event so it’s hard to get in. I’d love to get a medal but obviously it’s a completely different competition and we’ll just see what happens.”
It’s been an attitude that has stood Coates well so far with swimming beginning purely as a hobby for the former Weetwood Primary School pupil who lives in Headingley with textiles designer mum Jude and engineer dad John plus 19-year-old brother Jim who is part of the Sheffield University cycling team.
Coates’ 28-year-old half-sister Jodie, meanwhile, lives in New Zealand but was in Yorkshire last weekend for her wedding. And Jodie’s not the only one clocking up the international air miles with Coates admitting she never imagined her initial hobby to take her so far so quickly.
Recalling how it all began, Coates recalled: “I just did all the swimming lessons and I got picked to go on a camp where I could start at the very bottom of the training scheme.
“I love swimming so I decided to go and I never expected to do well.
“Ever since, I’ve just got better and better – going to galas and just competing.
“I never thought starting swimming that it would ever be like this!
“I’m just taking everything as I go and enjoying every experience – the once in a lifetime things that I’m getting to do.
“I’ve never been to Singapore or to Thailand and I’ve been to loads of new places this year.
“I’d never been out of Europe until this year and then suddenly I’m going to all these places. It’s been amazing and hopefully this is just the start...”