There was a first for Team Scotland in the pool on Thursday, with Lauren Smith placing third to claim bronze and become the first Scot ever to win a synchronised swimming medal.
Sitting third going into the final round, the free routine, 27-year old Smith managed a near-perfect swim to maintain her medal placing, though she then endured an agonising wait as her two closest rivals performed their routines.
“Routines are never perfect,” said Smith. “There’s always something you can improve on, but the best feeling you can get is your coach saying you’ve managed a really good performance, and that’s what mine told me. So I was very pleased; I felt like I really put everything into it.
“But when I walked off I thought, I can’t watch this,” she continued, referring to the two remaining routines. “I went and warmed down in the other pool, where there was a screen, but I wasn’t looking at what they were doing; I didn’t want to look at the rankings until the very end.
“I was waiting and waiting to hear that the final swimmer [Tarren Otte of Australia] had finished, and it seemed to go on forever.”
There was a delay before Otte’s routine, forcing the Australian swimmer – the last swimmer in the competition – to stand poolside for several minutes. When, eventually, she finished, and the judges delivered their verdict, it was enough only for her to retain fourth place. Smith had her medal, and she emerged from the warm-down pool to hugs and celebrations with her coach and support team.
“A medal is what I was coming to get,” she said, “but it was really close between three of us for bronze. I didn’t allow myself to believe it until I saw the final rankings, with my name third.”
Born in Surrey, Smith’s father, David, is from Glasgow. “My dad – both my parents – have been so supportive, so this is a way of saying ‘thank you’ to my dad,” said Smith. “I wanted to compete for Scotland, and I’m very proud of this medal.”
Smith started her sporting career young. From the age of three, she was a gymnast. “I did gymnastics for ten years but I was really scared in the swimming pool,” she said. “I had swimming lessons when I was eight, but I stopped because I was scared.
“Two years later, when I was ten-and-a-half, I tried again, going to swimming lessons with my sister, and the teacher said, ‘you’d be good at synchronised swimming.’ I didn’t know what the sport was, but three weeks later I entered a competition and won. And I thought, this is the sport for me.”
As Great Britain captain, Smith wants to compete at the London Olympics in 2012, but she will be unable to participate in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games as synchronised swimming will not feature on the sport programme.
“Maybe my medal will make the difference and synchro’ can be included in the Glasgow programme,” said Smith. “It’s been on the Games programme for years and years and it would be such a shame if it was taken out in Glasgow, especially after we’ve just won our first ever medal. And I promise to take part if it’s included.”