top of page


I clearly remember the crowd being deathly quiet at the start. The crack of the starter's gun broke the silence. The moment the swimmers surfaced with the manikins the crowd exploded. Deafening. Incredibly, it became louder as the swimmers approached the wall. I was on the pool deck, level with the lead swimmer. The blue, white and red cap signified he was one of ours. The heat of a Spanish summer coupled with the performance being played out before me left me drenched in sweat. In the final few metres, one swimmer began to move clear. Our swimmer. I ran along the pool deck watching and praying he finished the job. I stopped and turned toward the large clock on the wall at the opposite end of the pool, a digital clock that showed every 100th of a second. It was strange, the noise seemed to die down and the clock seemed to slow. I watched, willing it to stop before the numbers/seconds clicked over to 30.

It did.

29.71 and the crowd went more ballistic and even crazier than before. We, (Team GBR) also went ballistic and even crazier than before. The record books and social media platforms went immediately into full meltdown and the whole world of Lifesaving was talking about the first person aged 18 or under to swim the 50m Manikin Carry in under 30 seconds.

This wasn’t some Russian kid who has been on the national swim program since birth. It wasn’t a big German from the Berlin Sports School. It wasn’t an Italian super freak finely trained and prepared for a moment like this and it wasn’t an eastern European with a suspect passport, full beard and a photocopied birth certificate.

The kid in the blue, white and red cap whom on that day became the fastest 18-year-old of all time in the history of planet earth was from a small Cornish village called Carharrack. He didn’t hone his talent in the swimming pools and aquatic centres of the world but more in a 25m pool in Truro and in the waters of Portreath Beach, surfing, and in 29.71 seconds in a little aquatic centre on the south-east coast of Spain, he showed the whole world what was POSSIBLE.

He showed that sporting success, in its most natural form, is about having the courage to take it (them) on at the highest level - and to use that platform to become a hero. Control the moment and do not let it control you.

Yep, you know what, take lane four in the heats and then rip them apart in the final.

Simple tactics. The simplest of all.

Take it (the pace) out so hard that your competitors need to put themselves physically and mentally in a place that 99% of them don’t want to go (or can’t go) anywhere near, in order to beat you.

Amidst all the incredible moments I had witnessed from GBR athletes across my six years of GBR coach/management at world and European championships, Charlie Haynes’ swim to win the 50m Manikin Carry in a new world record time at the 2015 European Youth Championships, was number one - and should be used as an example to each and every British kid who has a sporting dream to be incredible.


315 views1 comment

1 Comment

David Bonar
David Bonar
Aug 03, 2020

Inspiring as ever Woody - keep them coming!!

bottom of page