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York City Baths Club duo in star-studded Olympic company
York City Baths Club swimmers James Wilby and Annie Johnston take a break from training at St Peter’s School pool ahead of this week’s inaugural British Gas International Meet in Leeds
YORK swimmers James Wilby and Annie Johnston will be seeing stars this week as they get their first taste of international competition.
The York City Baths Club duo are taking part in British Swimming’s inaugural British Gas International Meet, which gets under way tomorrow at the John Charles Centre for Sport in Leeds.
The entry list includes a host of swimmers that starred at the London 2012 Olympics, including the majority of the Great Britain team.
Wilby, 19, and 15-year-old Johnston will both compete in the breaststroke at 50 metres, 100m and 200m.
Wilby, who takes the plunge tomorrow, will be competing against the likes of London silver medallist Michael Jamieson, Olympic finalist James Goddard and German ace Marco Koch.
Johnston takes to the pool on Friday, with her opponents headlined by Lithuanian teenager Ruta Meilutyte, who won a surprise gold in London.
York City Baths Club head coach James Richards said: “There will be a lot of seasoned internationals taking part and for Annie and James this is going to be the first time they have got to mix with these sort of people.
“Both of them learned to swim with City of York Council before moving to York City Baths Club to complete the Learn to Swim Stage.
“Now they are at the top of the city’s programme, which is great.”
He added: “The aim for them is to produce lifetime best performances, attempt to get into finals, ultimately, I want them to enjoy the experience of being around some top international swimmers, seeing how they prepare etc. The event is sold out so it will be a great atmosphere, and great experience to swim in front of a full venue.”
Former national 200m breaststroke champion Wilby took part in last year’s Olympic trials and has received the offer of a university place at Loughborough, a world-class sporting university and home to one of Britain’s intensive training centres.
Johnston, meanwhile, won bronze at the 2012 National Championships and is currently on the England Talent Programme. She has been part of several domestic teams, but her next aim would be to secure a place in a Great Britain junior squad.
The duo are part of York City Baths Club’s 20-strong elite squad, a group destined for big things according to ambitious coach Richards.
“It is a good pool of talent, not just swimming but pentathlon, triathlon and ironman,” he said.
The band of 20 includes the likes of GB Senior Elite Triathlon Team member Phil Graves, a former UK Ironman champion, rising modern pentathlon star Georgia Pipes, and a whole host of other promising swimmers who are already competing at a national level, or are very close to doing so.
One of Richards’ stated aims is matching the golden era of swimming in the Minster City, when then coach Paddy Garrett nurtured Olympic talents Caroline Foot and Robin Francis.
“Now it is about aspiring to reach that level again,” said Richards, who previously worked in Leeds alongside Olympic medal-winning coach Dave Calleja.
“I only started here six months ago, the club has already experienced success at a national level, in National Championships.
“It is about getting international recognition, trying to get kids into teams and events. It is going to be a long journey, but we’re steadily getting back towards where we were with Caroline and Robin.”