I’m writing this first blog in Budapest, on our team bus which is navigating its way round the crazy Friday night traffic. We’re on our way to a city called Eger to play two matches over the weekend against the local side in the Hungarian National League. Since last October we have been travelling twice a month to play in this league and Hungary has become my second home, although I am embarrassed to say my Hungarian language skills are still appalling despite having insider help from Hungarian Penguins Meli and Nuci.
We approached the Hungarian National League as a way to play more frequent tough matches against some of the best players in the world. I think we’ve improved a lot over the last 6 months and going into this weekend we are ranked fourth in the league which was our initial aim, to stay in the top four.
Back in Manchester where all the squad live and train Sylvester, our coach, puts us through a strenuous weekly training programme. We are in the pool for four hours a day, two hours in the morning and two in the evening. We also do an hour of weights four times a week. I usually have trouble walking by Wednesday thanks to our gym coach’s obsession with ‘over head squats’, and come the end of the week most girls have difficulty brushing their hair due to sore muscles. We get the weekends off to relax and recover and I often spend the time in London visiting friends and family.
We also do a couple of ‘out of the pool’ sessions a week, with a sports psychologist, undergoing media training, doing video analysis or attending Olympic awareness talks. These help prepare us for London 2012. Last week’s session was sprung upon us as a surprise practice press conference in which we were put on the spot by really difficult questions. It was filmed so we could watch ourselves back – this was the worst bit! Hopefully I won’t ever have to experience such a tough interview session in real life.
As well as training around 25 hours a week, I work part time just across the road from the pool at Manchester University. It’s a great little job as they are happy to be flexible around my training and travelling. Everyone in the office is used to me rushing in in the mornings with dripping wet hair or returning from a trip covered in scratches or with a black eye. They are very supportive.
Over the next few months I’ll be updating you with how we are going in our our big aim for this year – qualification for the Europeans in January 2012. We face Spain, Ukraine and Israel in our pool and will play each team twice (home and away) in the next six months. The top two teams will qualify. We had a great start to our campaign, beating Israel 26-1 in Loughborough on 29th January. Thank you to all the Penguin supporters who came to cheer me on! Our next match is against Ukraine in Ukraine at the end of this month. You can follow the results from this match and our Hungarian National League matches on the British Swimming website.
I must admit though, the thing I’m most looking forward to in the coming weeks is the Penguin 90th Anniversary Dinner on 2nd April! Luckily it doesn’t clash with any trips abroad so I’ll be down in London with my party shoes on, and I’m so looking forward to seeing everyone there.