An interview with Jaime - a beginner swimmer's guide to competing
Jaime has recently moved from lessons to lane 4 at Out To Swim. He just took part in his first ever competition: Paris TIP. We've decided to interview him to share his experience with other OTS swimmers:
Hello Jaime. How long have you been swimming and what made you start?
I learned to swim when I was a kid, but never with a proper technique until I joined Out to Swim 18 months ago. One day I woke up with the idea of getting into swimming and finding a team in London, and then someone told me about OTS and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to also meet people with similar interests. The experience couldn't have been better, and now I see this as the best decision I've made since I moved to London.
How quickly do you feel you have progressed with Out To Swim?
I think it's been quite a natural progression, similar to other swimmers who joined spontaneously and managed to keep swimming regularly. It was quite easy to move up from lessons to lane 4, because just doing the basic things right can take you there if you swim regularly 2-3 times a week. Now I'm finding it harder to move up, even though I feel like I make progress every month. It's like everyone else does too, so I'm going to have to ask the coaches for some secret technique advice just for me... (Laughs)
Paris was your first competition. What kind of pressure did you feel and how did you cope with them?
I guess it depends how seriously you take it. I'm quite competitive, but also I knew I would be far away from winning anything, so I didn't have pressure in that sense. For me it was an opportunity to learn how a competition works (when and how to warm up, how to wait for your heat, how to get out of the pool without ruining the next swimmer's race...), and my only goals were: learning those things, not being disqualified, and beating my own times. And I managed all those, so I had a fantastic feeling of achievement at the end.
How does it feel to be swimming as part of a team? Were the others encouraging or were they competitive?
Everyone from OTS was very supportive all the time. Other swimmers would wish you good luck on the way to the block (even if you are racing against them), they would give you advice, they would cheer you on from the stand, and they would congratulate you on the way back. I can tell you none of this was just politeness, because there was a gesture that spoke for itself: when it came to making the relay teams, our captain Andrew mixed some of the fastest swimmers with some of the slowest, clearly risking their chances to win. Thanks to that, some of us won medals when we would've had no chance otherwise. It also gives an idea of how fast our fast swimmers are... (Laughs)
What was the atmosphere like at the venue, were you able to meet and talk to competitors from other clubs/countries?
The environment was very friendly. You could absolutely talk to anyone at the venue, particularly while waiting for your heat to start. I think I'll do more of that next time though, cause I was so focused on my races that I didn't realise how handsome some of the guys around were until the closing party... (Laughs)
Were there social opportunities to relax and have fun during the weekend?
Absolutely. It was pretty much like a holiday weekend with friends, the only difference being that you would have to be careful with alcohol until the competition was over (maybe not everyone followed this advice though... cough cough). Most of us took an extra day off and visited Paris on Friday, and we always went out together for lunch and dinner. And of course there was the official closing party, which was huge because this competition was international and multi-sport. I think OTS will also be remembered for their performance in the dance floor... It was so much fun.
Based on your experience, what advice can you give to people thinking of going to their first competition with Out To Swim?
Definitely, definitely, definitely try it. No matter what your swimming level is. Many people from lessons tell me they don't feel ready, but they should know they are never going to race against people much faster than them: you race in your heat against people with swim times similar to yours. And if you don't have a time, you'll just race in the slowest heat. I'd recommend them to try a small and friendly competition, like our GLLAM2017 in September, and see how they like it. They may find it as exciting as I did. And if they do, they can keep practicing in other competitions over the year to then go to the Gay Games in Paris in August 2018. That's going to be a massive event for our club that nobody should miss out. I certainly won't... I registered as soon as I was back from Paris!