[Article & Picture Courtesy of Hull Daily Mail]
Rachael Williamson with her European silver medal
ONE year on from stepping on the podium in Finland, Rachael Williamson was at it again on her return to the Scandinavian country.
The Anlaby swimmer was competing for Great Britain at the European Junior Championships in Helsinki and came away with a silver medal from the 4x200m freestyle relay.
This success comes 12 months after the Wolfreton School pupil had won bronze in the 800m freestyle at the European Youth Olympics Festival in 2009 in Tampere, 100 miles north of the Finnish capital.
Last summer, the teenager also competed in the 400m, coming sixth in the final, but this time around she was entered into six different disciplines by the British selectors.
The 2009 HotShots Award winner, now 15, swam in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1,500m freestyle events, the 200m butterfly as well as the relay in the space of just four days.
At the Youth Olympics, Williamson had been competing at the top of her age group but in Helsinki she was up against swimmers a year older than her.
With this in mind, the Kingston upon Hull Swimming Club star was not expecting to come away with individual titles, but she was nonetheless surprised at the number of races she was picked for.
She told HotShots: “It was a surprise when I found out I was doing so many races, but I was really pleased.
“It was a great experience to do so many events and showed I can cope as I swam nine times in four days.
“I was quite tired on the second day of racing, but I still swam well and was not far off my personal bests in all those races despite that, which is very positive going forward.”
In the morning session on day one, Williamson qualified for the semi-finals of the butterfly and later that night she made the final of the same event with a new personal best of 2min 19sec.
Shortly afterwards, she had to line up in the 1,500m final and despite her earlier exertions, she managed to finish as ninth best in Europe.
Williamson added: “I was quite happy with how I did in the 1,500m and was only a few seconds off my personal best, which was good as I had only just swam in the 200m fly where I had got a personal best.
“But I was really happy to be the ninth best in Europe as they are two of the hardest events in the programme and was up against older people.”
The next morning, the Bernadette Avenue resident felt tired and despite failing to make the final of the 400m freestyle, she was 11th fastest overall and was made first reserve for the final.
Later that night she came 10th in the final of the butterfly, before swimming a personal best of 2min 05sec in the heats of the 200m freestyle on the morning of day three – where she was ranked 13th overall in Europe.
In the same session, Williamson then had her favourite event the 800m and despite not coming away from this event with a medal this time she produced a big personal best in coming eighth in the final.
Williamson was most pleased with her results in the butterfly and 800m individually during the championships.
She said: “I came 10th in the butterfly final which was surprising as I was not expecting to even make the final.
“The 400m and 800m free are the events I am more focussed on and just started doing more fly in training this year.
“It's nice to do something different and it's fun as usually I'm just doing the freestyle all the time in training, but I would not have believed anyone if they had said at the start of the year that I would have ended the season 10th best in Europe.
“I swam 8min 51sec for my 800m in the slower heat of the declared heats for the final which was four seconds off my personal best.
“I could not believe how well I had done as I was just wanting around an 8.54 and so I was quite amazed by that.
“My ranking said I would come 11th but I came eighth overall and beat some of the swimmers from the faster heat later that night.
“My mum also told me that I was the second best swimmer who was born in 1995 so that is positive going into the Europeans next year.
“Going for gold in the 800m next year when I am top of my age group would be a great incentive and something I would love to try and achieve.”
Williamson's second Finnish adventure in the space of a year was capped off in style on day four of the Europeans when she swam the third leg for Britain in the final of the 4x200m relay as they came home second by Germany.
She took a second off her best for the 200m as GB saw off Italy to take silver on her first taste of international relay action.
“I was really happy to come back with a silver,” she continued.
“There was a brief moment when I realised how well I had done but then I was back in training again ahead of the national age group championships next week.
“After the nationals I have a three-week break where I will be a able to take a minute to think how well I have done.”
Going for 800m gold in Belgrade in July 2011 at the top of her age group may be a long-term aim for Williamson, but short-term she is focussed on coming away with gold from the National Age Group Championships in Sheffield this week.