A big Korea highlight for Hollingsworth in Gwangju
FINE form at the World Masters Championships meant that Tom Hollingsworth returned from South Korea with a full set of medals.
But beyond the competitive thrill of succeeding at such a level, notably winning gold in the 200m backstroke, Hollingsworth also brought back some very fond memories from the city of Gwangju.
Truly sweltering conditions ramped up the challenge of swimming at Nambu’s past World University Games venue, overlooked by seating for thousands of spectators, and yet Hollingsworth got by with a little help from his friends.
‘It was great winning the gold and winning some medals, but probably the best thing I took away from it was meeting people like me from all around the world, doing the same thing that I do,’ said Hollingsworth regarding an event featuring some 5,700 competitors.
‘We all have a full-time job but we still love the sport, so it’s just really nice to meet like-minded people my age.’
And he feels that all paid off in terms of putting Guernsey on the map. ‘When you chat to someone further afield, no-one’s actually heard of it.
‘You know, everyone’s very keen to learn about Guernsey all the time, so it’s nice to promote Guernsey on this sort of stage.’
Although Hollingsworth is only 31 years old, he is very much a pool veteran in swimming terms.
His one previous World Masters had been in Budapest 2017, claiming double bronze in the 25-29 age group, and yet he returned every bit as sharp despite being two years longer in the tooth.
Shortly after arrival, the age 30-34 competitor clocked a winning 2min. 9.78sec. with a commanding 200 back swim, later backing this up with silver over 100 and bronze over 50. A wooden medal for fourth in the 100m butterfly completed the set.
‘Overall, I’m really pleased, though the times weren’t as quick as I thought,’ he said.
‘I feel everyone was slightly off, just because of how hot it was – right at the start, they had a heatwave and it was 37C but with the humidity, it felt like 45. You couldn’t escape it – you jumped in the pool just to cool off.
‘The good thing about Masters is as you get older, you move up an age-group, so it gets a bit easier. I haven’t slowed down, so I guess I’ve improved relatively to everyone else.’
- More in Wednesday's Guernsey Press.