Williamson gets police escort for her two medals
AS Rachael Williamson sat on her team coach being whizzed through the streets of Belgrade by a police escort, little could she have known what delights were in store in the next five days.
The 16-year-old from Anlaby admitted to feeling “very weird” as locals in Serbia stared in puzzlement as police sirens blared out to clear the way for the Great Britain junior swimming team.
Each day the squad was led to and from the outdoor Tasmajdan Swim Complex for the European Junior Championships in 35 degree heat.
For Wolfreton School's Williamson, the event proved to be a crowning moment in her junior career.
Going into the championships, she had already won two medals for GB. She won 800m freestyle bronze at the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2009 and a silver in the 4x200m relay last year at the European Juniors, both in Finland.
The teenager returned in style to the Europeans this year at the top of her age group, doubling her fine tally of medals by claiming an individual silver and bronze.
On day one of the competition she slashed six seconds off her best 800m time to come home third, before improving on her best 400m freestyle time by four seconds 24 hours later to come second in the final by just 0.1secs.
Williamson also came fifth in a massive personal best in the 1,500m and helped the GB 4x200m relay team finish fourth in the final after producing the team's fastest leg.
The Kingston upon Hull star told HotShots: “Before my 800m final I did not feel as nervous as I have in the past, I felt excited and just wanted to get in and swim.
“I did not feel as tight and once I got to 600m I just tried to push on.
“My whole aim for the event was to swim PB's and see where that got me and so to get bronze was a bonus.
“I felt really proud of what I had done, but I have learnt to be able to carry on and celebrate later and by the evening after my 800m I was already concentrating on my 400m heats the next morning.
“I knew I was capable of a big PB as I had set a personal best halfway through my 800m final when I was not even maxing out.
“At the end of the 400m final I turned to look at the scoreboard at the far end and it was a big shock when I saw I had got the silver as I was not expecting to go as fast as four minutes 14 seconds.
“I was very excited and looking back now I am proud of how I have done over the last couple of years.
“It is a big thing to make the Great Britain team three years in a row and to win medals each time as well is something very special.”
Aside from a dinner on the final night with the GB team to celebrate coming top of the medal table, Williamson has given herself little time to reflect on her successes.
Hours after arriving back at the airport, the youngster was back in the pool training for the National Championships, which take place in Sheffield at the end of this month.
A trip to Florida with her family, just a day after she receives her GCSE results, is where Williamson is planning to celebrate most.
“I've never taken any of the Europeans as big competitions and treated them as just another race meeting,” added Williamson, who hid her medals in a secret compartment in her suitcase to keep them safe in her hotel room.
“It was a really big thing for me to do as well as I did in Belgrade, but now I am back in training again and am focused on the nationals, I can celebrate after this last event.
“This is my last year at juniors, I will then technically be a senior and in the mix for big championships.
“I'm ranked 10th overall in the UK in the 800m and 13th in the 400m and so this next year has got to be about chipping away at my times.”