Having not swum a stroke between October 2007 and this April prospects of qualifying for the Scottish team bound for the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, India (11-18 October 2008) were looking decidedly bleak for Edinburgh 18 year old Andrew Haslett.
But in a remarkable turnaround the Warrender Baths swimmer produced no less than four team times at the same meet, the British Youth Championships in August.
Last month Andrew achieved what he had thought was almost impossible by being named in the Pune bound Scottish team of 44. This week he gained further recognition after being crowned August Athlete of the Month by team partner, Clydesdale Bank.
The awards are part of Clydesdale Bank’s support programme and have been run between April and August. Athletes that demonstrated good performances in the build up to Pune were nominated for the five Athlete of the Month awards by the Scottish team’s Sport Team Managers. A Commonwealth Games Scotland judging panel selected each winner who received a £300 award from Clydesdale Bank, to help with the costs of training. Each winner’s club also received £100.
A year ago Andrew had been preparing for what he was certain would be his best season in the sport when what should have been routine surgery on a groin injury revealed other problems.
“I was diagnosed with a Gilmour’s groin,” he said. “It’s basically a hole in my groin which I had to get stitched up but when they operated they found I had a hernia as well which they had to operate on. I had eight months out after that I was totally out of the pool unable to do any training.
“I really wanted to go to India but after so long out I didn’t think there was a chance I would make it. But I went to the British Youth Championships in August, got personal bests in every race and won three gold medals, which I totally didn’t expect.”
Andrew acknowledges the Scottish Institute of Sport for helping his dramatic return, “I don’t think I’d be back swimming to any high level without them because there were lots of complications and they helped me through it. I did the physio and Strength & Conditioning brought me back to strength really quickly and I actually felt stronger when I got back than I had before.”
To achieve PBs in the British Youth Championships, in as diverse a range of events as the 200 metres Individual Medley, 200 backstroke, 200 breastroke and 100 backstroke, speaks much of Andrew’s focus and determination. His long term coach Ian Wright, is almost at a loss for words when asked how Andrew made such a rapid transformation from the injury bench.
“It was quite incredible and I’m struggling to reconcile how it’s possible,” said Ian, Youth Games Swimming Team Leader whose 10 strong team includes three of his own Warrender Baths swimmers.
“He was really motivated to come back and was hungry for success. Because places in the Commonwealth Youth Games team were up for grabs and a whole group of swimmers across Scotland had set their sights on them there was an added urgency and determination above the normal levels these kids have.”
Along with 43 of Scotland’s best young athletes, Andrew will embark for the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, in just under a fortnight’s time. The Scottish team comprises 44 athletes from eight sports (athletics, badminton, boxing, shooting, swimming, table tennis, weightlifting and wrestling) together with 16 support staff. Like Andrew, these athletes are looking to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014.
“In Pune my aim is of course to try and get a medal,” said Andrew. “I’m not sure how strong the competition is but if I do my best I should be in with a chance. I would really like to go to Delhi in 2010. I’m going to Australia straight after the Commonwealth Youth Games, training for a year so hopefully that will put me in good condition.
“Everyone’s ambition at the moment is London 2012 so I’ll see how training goes then hopefully be in with a chance of qualifying. The Commonwealth Games in 2014 are another big target of mine – with Glasgow being the host city it makes it an added incentive.”
In the meantime he is delighted to be selected as the Clydesdale Bank Athlete of the Month, “It’s a really big achievement, I really didn’t expect it but it’s really good to be recognized,” he added. “I will probably use the £300 to buy a new suit for the Commonwealth Youth Games.”
Congratulating Andrew, Steve Reid, Retail Director of Clydesdale Bank said, “Clydesdale Bank is proud to be supporting the Scottish Team at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune next month.
“Andrew is an excellent example of the many young people who have striven for team selection over the summer months and I would like to congratulate him on his many achievements throughout the last year. He is a worthy winner of this month’s Clydesdale Bank Athlete of the Month award.”
Following the Games, the judging panel will consider performances at Pune to select a Clydesdale Bank Athlete of the Games and two runners-up. A further award of £500 and £250 respectively will be awarded with £100 going to the winner’s club.