SAC Tiffiny Dickenson

RAF Swimming & Diving Training


Cpl Si Almond Following a highly successful season of training and fixtures and in preparation for the Inter-Services Swimming and Diving competition in July, the RAF Swimming and Diving Squads spent their annual training week at Club La Santa, Lanzarote. The centre is ideal for sports teams and the facilities are superb including a 50m swimming pool, 1m spring board, fully equipped gym, cycling and running routes as well as hourly fitness classes, racket and watersports. Over the past 18 months the swimming and diving teams have both had many new members begin training with them, testament to the successful re-structuring of the RAF swimming organisation to include regional training and competitions to bridge the gap between station and RAF-level squads. At the Inter-Regional Championships in April this year several very promising swimmers, including SACs Tom Maine and Adam Simpson, competed for their region, achieving some excellent times and were selected to train with the RAF Squad. The standard of swimming and diving has also improved thanks to the dedication of civilian coaches Anne Murray (diving) and Colin Cunningham (swimming) and team mangers. For example, in September the Womens’ Swimming Team won the CC Air Ramstein swimming competition, beating air force teams from Holland, Germany and the US. As a result, the team managers Flt Lt Tom Jones (swimming) and Sgt Jennie Burchell (diving) had some hard decisions to make in selecting only 32 swimmers and divers to attend the training camp.

JT Jodi Parsons Arriving on the evening of Thursday 7 June, the swimmers and divers had time to settle into their self-catering apartments before training started in earnest on Friday morning. Starting with a gymnastic work out at 0815 and continuing with a mixture of pilates, core strength work and aerobics, the divers made good use of the classes run each day by the Club La Santa staff and the gym facilities. An hour and a half in the morning and again in the afternoon was spent on the 1m springboard learning new dives and rehearsing routines for the Inter-Services. Diving outdoors proved an interesting challenge not only because of the strong breeze coming off the coast. Overnight the air and water temperatures dropped considerably so that the morning diving session was a freezing cold affair. By the afternoon temperatures rose to 30 degrees; therefore trying not to burn during the coaching sessions was the priority!

SAC Gaz Daniell The swimmers also had to adapt to training in an outdoor pool. During the first session it quickly became clear that the backstroke swimmers were going to struggle. Subconsciously backstrokers usually use a pool’s ceiling to swim in a straight line down the lane; now, even if they could open their eyes against the bright sunlight, the small white fluffy clouds moving across the sky were going to be of little use! Techniques were quickly adapted and order was returned to the lanes. Just as well, as the coach, Colin Cunningham, had a punishing training schedule for us to complete. In the water for two 2hr sessions a day, we began with distance and technique work covering 5,000m each session. (On Saturday morning the main set of the session was a 2000m timed swim.) The times we achieved were then used by the coach to monitor our progress during the week and as a bench mark for the sprint work that was to come. Increasingly Colin, while maintaining the distance work, began intensifying the work on our starts and turns. By Tuesday the emphasis was entirely on sprint work and 2 days were dedicated to some gruelling training. Closely monitored by team captains SAC Tiffiny Dickenson and SAC Gaz Daniell and aware that the Inter-Services team would be picked at the end of the training week, personal pride and competition kicked in and the swimmers worked to breaking point.

Sgt Jennie Burchell On the penultimate morning the coach programmed a break into the swimming training regime. The majority of the team went to a Thai Bo class which was advertised as ‘exercise to music combining movements from different martial arts to provide an aerobic work out’. It failed to mention that coordination was required but the swimming team muddled their way through providing amusement for onlookers! Others in the team, such as Cpl Si Almond, Sgt Woolley Woolridge and Sgt Spike Buchan, completed an open water swim in the lagoon in preparation for the Open Water Inter-Services competition to be held at the end of June. By this point in the intense training some injuries were beginning to show particularly shoulder injuries and RI, Cpl Spenny Fielding, was called upon in between his diving training.

In addition to the intensive week’s training, several swimmers made the most of the excellent sports facilities on offer and some found the additional energy to enter competitions: the duathlon was won by Cpl Si Almond, a PTI at RAF College Cranwell and the novice windsurfing competition was won by Flt Lt Ed Mania. The week was also a good opportunity for the squads, both of which had a number of new members, to socialise.

La Santa Swimming Squad On Saturday night each of the 4 apartments prepared one course of a 4 course meal, each trying to out do the others, and we moved between apartments, plates and cutlery in hand. Although the rest of the week was spent trying to track down missing glassware and pots and pans, the evening was extremely successful. On the final night we all went out for tapas in La Santa village and were extremely well hosted at a restaurant run by an ex-Marine. The live band at the restaurant created an excellent atmosphere and the evening continued back at one of Club La Santa’s bars. Some of the locals clearly took their dancing very seriously and a ‘dance off’ ensued. However, Sgt Woolley Woolridge’s classic ‘spotty dog’ routine and coach Colin’s interpretation of break dancing overwhelmed the opposition. Maybe Woolley and Colin had better stick to swimming….

In all, the week was excellent training and both coaches were extremely pleased with the squads’ progress. All would be put to the test, however, in the forthcoming Inter-Services at RAF Cranwell.

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