Newcastle United Academy coach Steve Harper talks to a 15-year-old swimmer from the North East who is already a British and European champion and has her sights firmly set on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo
On the back of another hugely successful Olympics and Paralympics, it’s time to focus on a sport where we continue to develop young stars; and we may well have another future Olympic gold medalist here in the region.
Emily Large from Ponteland is 15 years old and attends Kings Priory School in Tynemouth. She swims for the Newcastle Swim Team, is the current British Champion at 200m fly and is ranked as the fastest 15 year old in the world at the same event.
Emily is also the European Junior Champion at 200m butterfly, the 4x100m freestyle and the mixed 4x100m medley, as well as collecting many other remarkable achievements in the last couple of years.
When did you start swimming?
I had lessons from the age of three and started swimming competitively from the age of eight. It was only in the British Championships in 2015, when I got picked for the European Youth Olympic Festival, that I really realised I could have a future in swimming. It also coincided with Ryan [Livingstone, her coach] arriving at the Newcastle Swim Team and spotting my potential in 2014.
Any other swimmers in the family, then?
My sister Sophia was a good swimmer but gave it up to play hockey. Apart from her, no.
How often do you train?
I do nine two-hour swimming pool sessions a week as well as one strength and conditioning session a week at Newcastle University and three land training [core work, etc.] sessions a week, too. Four of those pool sessions, three on school days, are early mornings with a 4.30am wake-up call to start swimming at 5.30am.
Do your parents share the early morning burden?
No, my dad does the early mornings while my mum does the rest.
What have you had to sacrifice to commit fully to swimming?
I was a good runner and I’ve also had to give up school sport but to be honest, I prefer doing the swimming so it’s not really a sacrifice. I don’t get to watch much television, either!
Who do you admire from the sport?
I look up to Michael Phelps and Adam Peaty. I respect the work ethic, motivation and dedication that they’ve had to reach the very top of the sport. When I started working with Ryan two years ago, that’s when I really had to commit that same level of dedication to the sport.
What is your favourite stroke or event?
I like the butterfly because I’m good at it and I like the rhythm and getting into the stroke rate of it. I’m quite good underwater too and that really helps with that stroke.
Your personal best for the 200m butterfly is 2:08:87. That’s only four seconds off the time that won Olympic Gold in Rio. How does that make you feel aged only 15?
It makes me even more determined to be at the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
Did you watch that final in Rio?
No, I didn’t want to watch it because that’s their time – mine will come.
Is your target now solely Tokyo 2020 with regards to your training programme, or are there other competitions along the road to the Olympics?
My first aim is to get to the Senior World Championships in Hungary next July. If not there, then the Junior Worlds are in Indianapolis in August. Ryan has designed me a training programme with a four-year plan but it has annual targets within that, too. To be Olympic Champion in Tokyo is my dream.
Does such a big commitment affect your school work or friendships?
It doesn’t affect my school work and my friends understand and have been really supportive. Saturday morning is my last swimming session of the weekend, which gives me time to catch up on school work and with friends afterwards.
What would you say to youngsters to encourage them to start swimming competitively?
When you’re in the pool, you’re free; you can just forget about everything.
Any advice for my ten-year-old daughter, Olivia, who’s doing well with her swimming and admires you?
Keep up with the hard work and be prepared for the early mornings.
What a lovely, grounded and very driven youngster Emily is. Watch out for her in the near future as she’s destined for the very top.
Thank you and good luck Emily!