Dunstable Swimming Club’s first British Medal!

Walter Hackett, the 16 year old captain of Dunstable Swimming Club swam his way to the record books at British Swimming’s Summer Championships last month.

Hopes were high for the East Region Champion and backstroke specialist after he qualified for the 16 years age group competition, held in Tollcross International Swimming centre in Glasgow. With the top 24 UK swimmers in each event invited to compete, Walter qualified for the 50, 100 and 200 metres backstroke. With an intensive and tailored build up in the final months before the competition, the pressure was on to achieve his goal of a podium finish. This was made all the harder as Dunstable’s home swimming pool has now been closed for over two years while undergoing refurbishment. This means the club’s swimmers are traveling to train in pools across three different counties and additional one-to-one sessions for Walter’s national training had to be carried out alone in a lane in public sessions in a number of different pools.

Travelling with Dunstable Swimming Club’s Head Coach, Tim Hutton, Walter settled in the day before racing started with a pool acclimatisation session and final practice with the backstroke start ledge – a starting device used at higher-level competitions that enables greater grip and a more powerful push off the wall.

The first morning of the competition saw Walter swim in the 50 metres backstroke. Previously his highest-ranked event, Walter swam a great time of 27.95 seconds, qualifying for the final. After rehydrating, fuelling up, and an afternoon nap back at the Airbnb, it was back to the pool for the finals session in the evening. Walter swam a blinding race in the final, going faster than his heat, and gaining eight place in a personal-best time of 27.62 seconds.

Spurred on by this result, the second day of the competition saw Walter in the heats of the 100 metres backstroke. This being the event that he has in recent months been improving on, he blasted a personal-best time of 59.24 seconds to qualify in third place for the final.

Following the routine of the previous day, the finals session took place that evening. With the swimmers called out one by one, Walter was recognisable by his favourite limited edition Hawaiian print TYR racing costume. With many keen supporters from his club following at home and abroad via the YouTube live stream and Twitter updates, the tension was unbearable.

Setting off in the final with a purposefully shallow start, Walter was up and swimming before any of the other nine swimmers in the pool. Turning at 50 metres Walter was in second position with a split time of 28.27 seconds. The final length saw three swimmers out ahead, with less than 0.2 seconds between them. At the lunge of the finish, Walter’s result came up on the scoreboard – third! In a blistering time of 58.76 seconds, which was another personal best and, even though he has only just turned sixteen, an all-time Bedfordshire Senior record.

With a flight back to Luton to catch, Walter stayed for his presentation of the Bronze medal before jumping immediately in a taxi to the airport.

Flying back to Glasgow for the following Sunday, Walter achieved a creditable 18th place in the 200 metres backstroke.

Coach Hutton said “Six years ago I started my dream job as head coach of DSC. Tonight one of our amazing swimmers won the club’s first ever British Summer Championship medal. Walter Hackett, doing the club proud with his bronze medal, you club legend!”

Walter said “To achieve a British Medal is a fantastic reward for the extra hours of swim training, land work and healthy diet I have been working on over recent months. I’d like to thank Tim, the Dunstable coaching team, Committee and all the other swimmers and supporters who have followed my journey here. The commentators at the event couldn’t stop talking about the fantastic social media support that our small club offered.”

With this season now over, Dunstable Swimming Club are running a lighter summer timetable before competitions start again in September, and are looking forward to getting back to the newly-refurbished Dunstable Centre, when the pool reopens later this year.