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Alice Dearing: “You learn from every race, so the more you can do, the better”

Alice Dearing was the 2016 World Junior Open Water Champion and now has her sights set on a place in the GB open water team for the Tokyo Olympics 2020

What are your swimming goals for 2019?

I’m definitely prioritising open water. My main focus is the FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, as these are also the first qualifying events for the 2020 Olympics.

What does a typical training week look like and what are your favourite sessions?

I usually do about eight or nine sessions in the pool each week plus three in the gym. Of those, one will be lifting and the other two circuits. This week was a low week and I covered about 35 to 40km. Next week will be more like 60km and average is probably around 50km, which is possibly less than some other marathon swimmers but it’s a regime that I’ve developed with my coach that seems to be working well. To be honest, I think I’d struggle mentally with 80km a week. As for favourites, there’s different types of enjoyment. A good sprint session is always fun but I don’t always feel I get a lot out of it while a tough threshold set is hard while I’m doing it but I get a nice sense of satisfaction after. Technique sessions are the hardest, mentally.


You’re relatively small for an elite swimmer. How do you cope with the physicality of open water?

It’s true, I’m only 5’4” and weigh 54kg but I don’t think about that when I’m swimming. If there’s any physical stuff going on I do my best to keep out of it as it just drains you and I want to save all my energy for swimming.

How do you balance swimming with the rest of your life?

I’m lucky that I really love my studies – I’m in my third year at Loughborough University studying politics – and swimming training fits well around my lectures. I want to get everything I can out of swimming and enjoy it while I’m doing it but I know that only a very few people can make a career out of it, so making sure I get a good degree and giving myself other career options is really important.


What do you think about when you’re swimming?

In training, I’m either singing in my head or thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner (pizza and Chinese take-away are my favourites). In a race, I try to stay as switched on as possible and keep focused on what’s going on around me, but it can be hard to concentrate for two hours.

What advice do you have for other open water swimmers?

Open water swimming is all about experience. Obviously you need speed and fitness, and the last thing you want to do at the end of a 10km swim is a 200m sprint so you need to be prepared for that, but it’s a very tactical sport. You can have the best plan ever but it can all go wrong in the first three minutes if your goggles get kicked off or the other swimmers do something unexpected. You learn from every race, so the more you can do, the better.

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Jonathan is a year-round skins swimmer with a particular love of very cold water. He has competed in ice swimming competitions around the world. He is a qualified open water coach with a particular love of introducing new swimmers to the open water.