Eva Narewska, 12, a synchronised swimmer from Henley Synchronised Swimming Club, has been selected onto the England Youth Squad after qualifying to attend a selection event in Bristol, where the 50 eligible swimmers had to perform a series of technical moves known as figures, together with tests on land and in the pool, with national and international team coaches assessing their flexibility, stamina, control, extension, speed, stability and uniform motion.
A few days later Eva learned she was one of 21 athletes who have been selected for the squad, which provides extra training and coaching for the most talented athletes in the country.
Eva, who attends Newlands Girls School in Maidenhead said: “I was at school when my mum got the email so I only found out when she picked me up from school swim squad training a few hours later, to take me to synchro training. I was so happy when she showed me the email.”
Below is Eva’s journey in her own words.
The journey …
My journey into synchronised swimming started when I was nine years old, but I actually learned to swim much earlier, as a baby with Waterbabies. My mum took me to classes with Waterbabies from the age of 3 months and I have hardly been out of the water since! I started gymnastics and dance classes and joined Maidenhead Marlins Swimming Club at the age of 5. I reached the competitive squads of swimming club by the age of 8 but then started to find it increasingly frustrating ‘just’ swimming up and down! My mum showed me some synchronised swimming on the television and I realised that I could combine my love of swimming with my gymnastics and dance training and music and all things creative! I went for a trial with Henley Synchronised Swimming Club, based at the Gillots Leisure Centre in Henley, in April 2016 (aged 9) and loved it. I progressed really quickly, taking and passing my Grade 1 Figures test a couple of months later. I joined the club’s team for 12yrs and under and then competed at my first National Age Groups Synchronised Swimming Championships (NAGS) in November 2016. I continued to progress well, entering several competitions and winning quite a few medals. I passed all the Grades for my age group and qualifying to swim with the team at NAGS again in 2017 and 2018 with the 12 and under team and then with the team and also in the duet and solo events in 2019.
I am lucky to live fairly close to where the GB synchro squads train and I have been to watch them showcase their GB and Olympic routines several times. Through an auction prize at one of the displays, I won an Experience Day, training with the GB squads which I attended in February 2018. There I trained alongside my idols Kate Shortman and Izzy Thorpe and learned about exactly what I needed to do to get into the squad and to get to be as good as they are!
Good results in my figures at the 2017 NAGS meant I was selected for the Reading Beacon Squad, a regional squad which is the first rung of the England Talent Development ladder. I attended several additional training sessions, gaining experience with athletes from other clubs in the region during 2018.
At NAGS in November 2018, I surprised myself and my coaches by placing in the top ten for my age group in the Figures competition and later that day my coaches handed me a letter from the England Synchro Manager, inviting me to a trial for the England Development squad (now called England Youth Squad)! I only had a week to learn the routine and prepare for the trial testing! My coaches were amazing and it was all hands on deck. I did my best but I wasn’t invited to join the squad that time. I gained a great deal of experience though and it inspired me to work really hard with the aim of getting to the trials the following year.
I was again selected for the Reading Beacon Squad for 2019. In June, I entered the Beacon Games and won the Bronze medal. I was also selected onto the South East Regional Squad and have attended extra training weekends and camps over the last few months. My competition results also mean I could apply for and was awarded a GLL training award giving me a free corporate membership use of the gym, pool and studio facilities at Henley Leisure Centre.
From January 2019, I have trained five days a week with my coach Mikki Carter, working on figures, flexibility and stamina training as well as sessions in the gym, lane swimming and team sessions. I have also continued training when possible with Core Gymnastics club based in Maidenhead and joined Henley Swimming Club to improve my stroke technique.
All the hard work paid off. At the 2019 NAGS I came 4th in my age group for Figures and won bronze with my team and for duet and placed 5th with my solo. They changed the criteria for trial entry for 2019, so I had to pass internal club testing to qualify for the trial in November.
My selection for the England Youth Squad means I will attend a week of intense training with the squad during each school holiday as well as over several weekends during 2020, as well as doing at least 20 hours of club training.
I am very excited about being part of the squad. It is a completely different level of training to normal club sessions. I cannot really believe I have reached this level but it is wonderful to be part of it after all the hard work I and my coaches have put in.
Not only is this a great achievement for me personally, but I feel really proud to be the first swimmer from Henley Synchro Club to have reached this level in the sport. They are a small club and mainly have recreational swimmers but with the help and dedication of my great coaches (Mikki Carter and Karen Bennett), together with the support of my team-mates, family and school, I am aiming high!
My next goal is to be part of the team at an international competition, hopefully next summer. My ultimate goal would be to be part of the GB team (or duet or solo!) and compete at an Olympic Games in the future!