Read about Dan Jones and Alys Thomas, and the dog’s weekend at the Welsh Winter Championships –
Written By Dan Jones –
” The Swim Wales Winter Championships were held in Swansea from the 17/12/2021 – 19/12/2021. For 2021 the event was swam long course to provide a Commonwealth Games nomination opportunity in line with the Swim Wales Commonwealth Games Nomination policy.
Alys is a partnered athlete with Arena UK and Solo Sports, and as Alys & I train together at the Swim Wales HPC we also live together being in a long-term relationship. Arena are also kind enough to support me in the lead up to Commonwealth Games which is a great help & very much appreciated.
With Alys’ performances at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, she has already achieved the nomination standard times for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Alys & I were competing over all 3 days in Swansea, swimming in the 50/100/200 butterfly & 50/200 freestyle for Alys then the 50/100 freestyle & 50 butterfly for myself.
The weekend kicked off with the splash & dash 50m Freestyle for me. The plan was to set a good benchmark for the rest of the meet and to get into the flow of the competition with all the Covid-19 protocols. In the lead up to the event the coaching team just told me to replicate what I do in training & that I shouldn’t change what I do in the race.
So, with that in my head I went up for the heats with just do what you do in training & have fun, as a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer.
I was happy how I executed the swim, it felt strong & powerful. I was able to hold water for the first couple of strokes then build the rate & power of the stroke throughout the length. Not breathing I spotted the wall, looked up the scoreboard & was impressed by the time of 22.79 as I had only recently gone 22.94 in the summer for the first time; previously my personal best was 23.00. It was a good PB for 50m & I felt like there was more to give in the final so that was a great start to the meet & gave me a great confident boost and momentum which would set me up nicely for the rest of my events.
Alys has done a lot of racing since the start of the season in September as she has been swimming for Team Iron in the International Swimming League (ISL), but these were all short course, so she was excited to see what she could produce in the long course pool.
I didn’t want to put pressure on myself & chase times as I have done this in the past & it hasn’t worked, I just wanted to have fun & enjoy racing as this is why we got into the sport at the start. I think sometimes as athletes we forget this and solely focus on chasing times to qualify for competitions/teams and we forget about enjoying racing and getting to the wall first.
Once I got back from the heats I had a special delivery at home from Arena UK- a new Arena Carbon Core FX suit just time for the 50m Freestyle final. I didn’t want to change anything from the morning just replicate what I did in the heat but try go faster. Again, like the heats hold water for the first couple of strokes then build the power & rate without breathing, then in the last 10m just kick even harder to get to that wall. It all came together chipping a bit more time off the heats swim to drop my time to 22.74 – another lifetime best (thanks to my new Carbon Core suit!). Putting me 0.54 from the Consideration time.
So, a very pleasing start to the competition, ready for the next 2 days.
Day 2 of the Swim Wales Championships was sprint day for the both of us, Alys coming down to the 50’s from her preferred event the 200m butterfly. She left the house earlier
than me as she had the 50m Free at the start of the session then followed by the 50m Fly towards the end. She successfully qualified for both finals, getting a PB in the Free clocking 26.5 & then fractions off her Fly PB which she hasn’t swam in a couple of years, so she was happy.
I only had the 50m Fly at the end of the session & carrying momentum from my speed the day before I was confidence could swim well. Even though I don’t train butterfly I just wanted to go out, have fun and see what I could do. To my surprise feeling powerful in the water, I managed to drop a lifetime best from 24.44 down to 24.19 which was only 0.27 from the nomination time for Commonwealth Games.
Sprint finals, Alys managed to secure a gold in the 50 freestyle & a silver in the 50 fly close behind fellow Welsh Olympian Harriet Jones (who also trains with Alys at the HPC)
But by the time it came round to the men’s open 50m fly final, the session was running ahead of schedule which wasn’t ideal as senior athletes we plan what we do prior to the race down to the minute. So, it turned into a bit of a whirlwind where I finished my dryland priming to fire myself up before the race. I walked straight down to marshalling for the final & I was the next final. I quickly had to get my suit tied and my hat and goggles on before getting announced onto poolside, which didn’t give me time to compose myself before the race but that is part of racing. I swam a bit slower than the heats touching in a time of 24.37 but was still happy with how I executed the swim, and the time was still under my old lifetime best, but I that race was done so it was time to focus ready for the 100 free on the last day.
The main events were on the final day of racing for Alys and I. The first event of the session was the Men’s Open 100 freestyle; I was pretty relaxed going into it due to my performance earlier in the meet, but I’d also done a bit more 100m work in training trying to fine tune my front-end pace of the race. I wanted to turn under 24.00 at halfway then just give it everything on the way back, as that’s what we had planned in my race model, so if I turned under that time, I would be happy.
I turned in 23.7 which felt relaxed but powerful and when I came off the turn, I just gave it everything I had on the way back as it was me against the clock, I remember saying to myself this is just 1 length of Backend Pace which you do in training all the time.
Again, like my other races I managed to PB in the summer going 49.93 which was my first time under 50s for the 100m, so going out a little quicker I managed to touch the wall in a new lifetime best time of 49.40 which really surprised me when I saw the time on the scoreboard.
Alys’s main event was the 200m butterfly, where she comfortably qualified for the final fastest in a solid 2:10, she said she would have liked to of dipped into the 2:09’s but we waited to see if she could do that in the final.
For the finals the events got switched round, meaning Alys’s 200 butterfly was up before me. Alys stormed to victory winning by a big distance- not quite going under the 2:10 barrier but still swimming a solid time, especially after a very busy program where her final was her 10th event of the weekend! A very solid weekend of racing setting a great benchmark for the rest of a very busy season for Alys with the World Championships/Commonwealth Games & European Championships all in the next year.
My 100m free final was the final event of the weekend and, like the 50’s, I just wanted to replicate what I did in the heats. I felt good, I went out a little slower than the morning by 0.2 (23.9) but still managed to come home in the same time as the morning finishing my weekend of racing still under my old lifetime best going 49.68
I also secured my place on the Swim Wales National Senior Elite Squad for the first time.
Racing had finished & it was a very successful competition for both of us. We were getting closer to consideration times for the Commonwealth Games which give us a big confidence boost going into the next cycle which started that Monday morning where we were both up early for morning training before earning our Christmas break on the 23rd for a couple of days.
Leading into the Games in the summer we will both be going away to Luxembourg for a week racing as part of the Welsh National Team then straight from there to Miami, USA for a warm weather camp to get a good block of training in before a bit more racing at the McCullagh International Meet in Ireland. All in preparation for the British Championships in Sheffield at the start of April.