Home Sport Swimming

Artist’s impression of the new centre
Pictures: Reiach & Hall

Scotland’s £30m National Performance Centre for Sport will be centred at Heriot Watt University on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Offering high level support for football, rugby and volleyball, the centre is designed to help Scotland’s athletes excel at elite level and be in operation by 2016. Other sports too will benefit – they include athletics, badminton, fencing, hockey and shinty. The new facility will be financed in part by £25m from the Scottish Government and a further £2.5m from each of Heriot-Watt University and the City of Edinburgh Council.

Artist's impression of the centre's layout

Artist’s impression of the centre’s layout

The centre will have a substantial range of facilities. They include a full-sized indoor football pitch with seating for 500 as well as a full sized grass pitch, again with seating for 500. There will be two goalkeeper training areas with floodlights, two grass rugby pitches, five grass football pitches, three outdoor tennis courts and a nine-court sports hall. The design builds on he existing facilities at the University’s centre for sport and exercise but also incorporates a large fitness suite, along with areas for strength and conditioning, hydrotherapy and treatment. The center will also provide office accommodation for sports governing bodies.

One of the main features in Reiach & Hall design is the centre’s roof. Inspired by the angle and trajectory of one of the greatest goals in football history, it follows the flight of a strike by Brazil’s Roberto Carlos against France in 1997. The complex has been developed “around the athlete”, providing facilities and services aimed at creating a positive impact on the preparation and development of athletes, coaches and volunteers.

Professor Steve Chapman,  Principal of Heriot-Watt University

Professor Steve Chapman,
Principal of Heriot-Watt University

Principal and vice-chancellor Prof Steve Chapman said: “This is tremendous news for the bid team and, I believe, for the future of performance sport in Scotland. We have the go-ahead to create a world class sporting facility, combining the expertise we already have at Heriot-Watt with a tremendous location, design and setting which have proved a winning formula and will continue to do so for Scotland’s up and coming sports men and women.”

Describing the decision as “absolutely fantastic news for Edinburgh”, Cllr Richard Lewis, the Council’s Sport convener, added that “Heriot-Watt University and the capital will provide an excellent home to the next generation of top athletes and those involved in helping them achieve their aims. Our bid enjoyed great support from the community and local sport groups will also be able to take advantage of this world-class facility on their doorstep. I’m really looking forward to working with Heriot-Watt as they develop their plans in detail ready for future Olympians and cup-winners in 2016.”

The site’s excellent transport links was one of the key factors which influenced the decision – they provide easy access to the city, Edinburgh Airport and the wider surrounding area. The Edinburgh bid also enjoyed widerspread support from top sporting celebrities including Olympians Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Steve Redgrave, rugby legend Gavin Hastings, footballer Michael Stewart and Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson. Other submissions had been entered by Dundee City Council and a partnership between the University of Stirling and Stirling Council.

The Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh
where Scottish Gas SwimBritain will take place in September

For several years now, the small Stirlingshire town of Dunblane has become associated with Andy Murray. When he finally won his Grand Slam at Wimbledon this year, the television cameras were in the community hall where the townsfolk had gathered to watch the match and then bask in the vicarious glory. But there are other Scottish sports stars – and their home towns – which ought to be equally celebrated.

Hannah Miley hopes to retain her Commonwealth Title next year

Hannah Miley hopes to retain her Commonwealth Title next year

Hannah Miley is one of Scotland’s swimming heroes. She’s the current reigning European 400m individual medley champion. She lives at home with her parents in the Aberdeenshire village of Inverurie where she trains in the local pool — a member of the Garioch Amateur Swimming Club — a small four-lane 25 metre pool, a far cry from the massive Olympic pools in which she’s achieved her success.

She represented Scotland at the last Commonwealth games in India three years ago, winning a gold medal in the process. She’s also been a member of the Great Britain team at the Summer Olympics in Beijing and London – in the latter, she came fifth.

This 23-year-old swimmer deserves to have the same support and following as Andy Murray – but swimming does not attract the same large audiences or indeed the interest from broadcasters which tennis has done for decades. And yet it is a popular participation sport. So when Miley flies out to Barcelona next week to join almost 30 other swimmers in the Great Britain team to take part in the World Championships which start on 28 July, it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to follow her every move, certainly on terrestrial television.

Coached by her father Patrick, Miley credits him with having helped her to her current position. She told me, “my dad was the first person to push me in the pool! Definitely without him, I would not be where I am today.” And she insists that an invention of his – a tool called the “Aquapacer” – was vital in her training.

“It’s a device a bit like a metronome,” she explained. “You wear it under your swimming had and it provides a pulse you can match your stroke to. It allows you to develop a consistent pace and, when training for a competition, you can increase the stroke rate to build up a greater speed. Sadly,” she added, “it’s no longer in production. But it has been used in the training of several British swimmers.”

She’s looking forward to taking part in the World Championships though she described it as “an opportunity to see how well the training has gone. You get the chance to see the competition from the rest of the world, in the same way as the European Championships let you test yourself against other European swimmers and the Commonwealth Games lets you meet those swimmers as well.”

Unlike last year’s Olympics where she was in the pool from day one, she won’t be taking part in a race in Barcelona until the final day of the competition. “It means be doing a lot of cheering for the rest of the team,” she laughed. “But it’s no different from what I did in Shanghai (at the last World Championships). I’ll be there in the final day and my aim is making the final and taking it from there.”

Glasgow 2014 LogoShe says she’s really looking forward to next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. “It’s really exciting,” she said, “and it’s amazing to have had two major home events so soon one after the other. I hope that Scotland can get behind me next year in the way the London crowd did at the Olympics. Certainly I hope to do Scotland proud.”

Looking back at last year’s Olympics, she remembers how important location was to the excitement generated. As she put it, “in London, it was really in your face. But when you compare that with Scotland, up period was very quiet. So the closer you are to the venue, the greater the excitement and that makes it all the more important to build the support network around you.”

She acknowledged that at the age of 23 many swimmers have passed their peak. But she insisted “I have quite a bit of swimming left in me.” She described herself as lucky that she still living at home and therefore doesn’t have the responsibilities of having a house or flat to look after and all the other personal issues which can affect performance. As she said “age is just a number and I still enjoy my swimming. So if I can defend my title in Glasgow, that would be a huge benefit.”

She also is determined to do her bit to raise the profile of swimming not just in Scotland but throughout the UK. So at the end of September, she’ll be taking an active part in the Scottish Gas SwimBritain event at the Royal Commonwealth Pool. This is one in a series of 2000m or 4000m team relay events taking place around the country. The idea is for people to gather together in small teams to take part – perhaps as a family. (Family teams need to have at least one adult and up to 3 children aged between eight and 15.)

“I’ll be there,” said Hannah, “just to help people get involved in swimming. Scotland has supported me through my career sunk in to give something back. In particular want to encourage the younger generation to look at other sports in football or rugby. And it’s very easy to get involved. All you need to do is go to the website and sign up.”

Scottish Swimming has appointed Sharon MacDonald as Director of Development for the sport.

MacDonald has over 20 years of Sports Development experience and has worked for Scottish Swimming since 2009, first as Healthy Living Manager and most recently as Participation Programme Manager.

During that time, she managed to secure an additional £1.2m from the Scottish Government for the National Top Up swimming programme plus another £100,000 from Comic Relief for a swimming leadership programme which she herself developed.

Before joining Scottish Swimming, she had worked at sportscotland for ten years. In her role as Partnership Manager, she helped to develop relationships with key agencies, including Sports Governing Bodies and Local Authorities.

“I am truly delighted to take up the role/position of Director of Development,” she said. “The post presents an exciting opportunity to further enhance and build on the development of swimming in Scotland. Having led the development of the new participation programme at Scottish Swimming over the last 4 years, I am looking forward to working closer with the Districts, clubs and other aquatic disciplines to ensure that more people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds participate in swimming for either health, fitness and fun, training and competition, or as volunteers, teachers and coaches.”

Scottish Swimming’s new Chief Executive, Forbes Dunlop added that he was “delighted Sharon will be stepping into the Director of Development role with Scottish Swimming. She has 20 years experience working at a local and national level of sport in Scotland and most recently has led the work on Healthy living and Learn to Swim for Scottish Swimming. I am really looking forward to working with Sharon and the rest of the team.”

Sunday saw the first Edinburgh Open-Water Swim Festival held on Portobello Beach. Competitors came from far and wide to take part – there was even one couple from South Africa. Open-water swimming has become increasingly popular in Scotland, especially in relatively calm waters like these on the Firth of Forth. The organisers now hope to turn this into an annual event.