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Aquatics: interview with elite swimming coach Graham Wardell

"We are just getting bigger and better." Graham Wardell talks about the Games and what he has been up to in order to prepare.

Graham Wardell has been coaching swimmers for the past 30 years and now he has been given the chance to coach the Scottish elite swim team for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. I was lucky enough to catch up with Graham during swimming practice at Tollcross International Swimming Pool a few weeks ago where he told me about his plans for the swim team and the work everyone has had to be putting in over the past few weeks.

You seem pretty busy here, how are you feeling for the Games?

It is so exciting to be here, such an inspiration for the swimmers and it is a great space. I am lucky that I have been in Glasgow sine 1993 so I have seen this facility grow and I think back to the days where we used to coach in the Calder Street baths and the 25 yard pools, and now we have come to this. It's awesome; we are just getting bigger and better.

How long have you known you were going to be the coach?

I have known for a little bit over a year now so it has been a really big build up for me. I have just been preparing for this year and putting lots of programmes in place for the athletes - It's been really exciting already.

How are you preparing the athletes for the Games?

We've done a whole program of things; we've done a gathering over weekends, running through some of the expectations. We have to do a lot of mandatory stuff like drug tests and procedures. We've done a lot of training stuff over the Christmas and the New Year which was jut over two weeks in Tenerife, so that was some warm weather training for the athletes.

We've got 46 of the top Scottish swimmers coming together from all over the world really. We have some in America and a few in England, they are mainly in Scotland which is really nice but we just want to give them all that sense of team identity so that during the Games we will all feel very much part of that team spirit.

How have you been working on making them feel more like a team?

We don't train together, all the swimmers train independently in their home programmes so there are very few occasions we are together. The last time was last week after the British Trials we have a two day camp here but then we did some go-karting as well because we thought it was important as well. That sense of team identity is really important because while it's true that everyone feels Scottish, it is just important the they all know one another.

We have some of them who are very experienced, Kayleigh McClatchy who is 28 and on her 3rd Commonwealth Games; Robbie Renwick who is 25/26, he is on his third commonwealth games. Then we have some newbies who this is there first time on the team. They don't necessarily know these athletes, they haven't grown up with them so it is trying to get them to all integrate with one another.

Do the athletes not get sick of being in the pool all day everyday?

While most of their time is spent in the pool they do spend a good few hours in the gym every week as well, it is a time taking sport. I would say most top athletes do anything between 25 and 30 hours a week to do a combination of in the pool or dry land training whether that's combat training, circuit training, resistant training or spinning. As well as this there are between seven and 10 sessions in the pool a week and the sessions are roughly two to three hours a session - it's very labour intensive.

How do the swimmers maintain a healthy energy level?

We are very lucky in Scotland because we have a strong link with the Scottish Institute of Swimming so most of the athletes have access to nutrition and health information. Some of the sprint guys need to get a lot of protein because they are breaking down a lot of muscle during their training and when they are in the gym and stuff so it is individual help. It also makes sure the athletes arrive at peak form so it's not being too precious about what they are like now but making sure that when they get to the Commonwealth Games they are leading then.

My main focus is what I call clean eating which is a lot of fresh foods. They're not into take-aways or a glass of wine with dinner for the ones that are old enough. It is about just being sensible and eating healthily. A lot of them have massive calorie needs but it is just about trying to ensure all the foods have a high nutritional value so that they are not filling up too much on doughnuts.

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