Para swimmer Alice Tai added to her ever-growing medal collection with two golds at the European Championships in Dublin last week – and she says the raucous support epitomised the ever-growing popularity of para competitions.
The 19-year-old powered to successes in S8 100m freestyle and backstroke events in Ireland as part of a British side which accrued an impressive 55 medals over seven days.
And Tai, who was part of the Paralympic gold-winning quartet in the 4x100m medley relay – 34 points at Rio 2016, admitted the vibes she soaked up from the stands symbolised the growing support for her and the para sport community, support she channelled into topping the podium twice.
“Dublin was really good – it was the most successful major championships I’d been to so far and it’s looking really positive for the future,” she said.
“It was really nice to have it close to home as well – it meant we had a lot of supporters coming over which was nice.
“The crowd in Dublin was the biggest crowd I think we’ve had at a European Championship, it was really nice to see how many people turned up.
“Especially because para events and para sports are trying to build up to the same level as the able-bodied guys, so to see that level of success and people interested in it is really great.”
Tai’s medal record speaks for itself in reflecting the dedication and application of a young athlete consistently striving to be the best at her sport.
Before Dublin, she already had a full roster of golds in World, European, Olympic and Commonwealth competition, as well as a host of other prizes.
Following this up with the two more golds in Dublin, you’d be forgiven for thinking would think she has everything sorted – but now she is setting herself another bigger challenges in shifting her life and training programme from Manchester to London.
She is moving swimming clubs to Ealing, and will be working under different coaches on a different programme, in her words, to avoid becoming complacent.
“For me, the biggest challenge next year is that I’m moving programme and training with a different club,” added Tai, who begins a course of music production and performance at the University of West London in September.
“I’m moving to London for university and I’m interested to see how the new programme affects my training and my performance and just to go from there.
“In the lead up to Tokyo 2020, I can find out what I need to do in order to perform well and win.
“I’m currently studying in Manchester and had the option to move. I felt like I was too comfortable in Manchester so I felt like I had adapted enough.
“I wanted to take a step out of my comfort zone and really challenge myself by starting somewhere fresh.”
To thank the public for their support through playing The National Lottery, Britain’s top athletes will volunteer as tail walkers at parkrun events across the UK from 18 August to 9 September. Everyone is welcome at #teamparkrun – be part of it!