‘This is my time to shine’

VERY few sportspeople globally can claim to have represented their nation on the Commonwealth Games stage aged 14.

Yet one young Guernsey swimmer, record-smashing backstroke sprinter Tatiana Tostevin, did exactly that at Gold Coast 2018.

Those big off-island competitions might feel like a distant memory for the now 17-year-old Tostevin amid this Covid pandemic, but she has continued her trajectory of great accomplishment.

A notable Christmas double saw Tostevin seal a place in the England junior squad then, on local soil, lift the Lambourne Shield crediting her as Guernsey’s top-achieving junior sportsperson of 2020.

What separates her from the other ambitious swimmers and young sportspeople in the island?

According to Euan Dale, her coach at her normal base in Millfield, it is Tostevin’s ‘one of a kind’ commitment.

‘Her commitment to the sport of swimming and her passion for racing is really what separates her from the rest,’ Dale said.

‘We are so proud to have Tatiana in the Millfield environment and she is a fantastic role model for all our up-and-coming swimmers.

‘It is great to work with the coaches in Guernsey, including legend of coaching Alison Frankland, to support Tatiana’s progress. I have no doubt that she has an exciting future ahead.’

Yet these are different times.

Sitting at Beau Sejour alongside Barracudas head coach Sara Parfit prior to the latest lockdown, Tostevin reflected on a quite different chapter of her swimming life.

Since March she has been based primarily in Guernsey, training with the same Barracudas club who have supported her since the age of eight.

Having studied in England since age 13, Tostevin faces a big change, albeit one which may give her a leg-up for Birmingham 2022.

‘It’s just made me realise I’ve got an advantage,’ she said as one of the few swimmers fortunate enough to, until this week, enjoy pool access.

‘It’s given me a lot of motivation. I think hopefully, if it keeps going, I’ll be doing lots of PBs in the future.

‘This is my time to shine.’

The swimmer was already on phase one of the England pathway beforehand, but her national squad selection marks a big – and very welcome – step-up.

‘My main goal was just to get on some sort of England squad, and I really wanted to get my name out,’ she said.

‘I’d been working for ages because, sadly, I was one place off junior Europeans. I was like, “Ugh, that was my one shot”.’

Doubts flooded in for Tostevin who, like many others, faced a competition drought in 2020, though coach Dale delivered the key news that previous results would be considered.

Her Guernsey long-course 100m backstroke record from February, a 1min. 3.10sec. swim in Portugal, rose to prominence. And then?

‘When I found out I was in the squad... I was literally ecstatic.

‘My coach messaged me and was like “That’s one goal ticked off” and that made me feel a lot more motivated.’

And the Lambourne Shield?

‘I actually did not think I would get it at all.

‘Me and my mum were sitting there, looking at the programme, and I was like “Oh my gosh, I might have a chance” and when they called my name, I was so surprised but so happy.

‘All my hours in the pool, out of the pool, it just made it feel really worth it.

‘I remember sitting in the car, looking at the names, and thinking it’s going to be cool having my name now underneath some of the really good sportspeople.’

Speaking of good sportspeople, Tostevin holds great praise for the up-and-coming Barracudas.

A strong crop of teenage girls, bearing impressive achievements of their own, help push her on regularly.

‘It’s actually quite intimidating, in a way. When I’m training, I’m like I need to sprint a bit more, try and stay ahead.

‘I like the competitive aspect as it helps each of us. Everyone’s so supportive – racing, everyone’s cheering.’

At present, Tostevin is training tirelessly and receiving online Swim England workshops to influence her development.

It is a bright future amid this Covid gloom, and even in her short lifetime, Tostevin has made many memories.

The nationals and regionals were great experiences, as were the Youth Commonwealths, and Gibraltar 2019 took it up another notch.

What was already an amazing Island Games experience became even better when she ended the Guernsey swimmers’ gold drought, winning the 50m backstroke in the final session after an ongoing stream of silvers and bronzes.

Yet her lengthy swimming highlight reel, that Commonwealths debut remains the pinnacle.

Simply being selected came as a huge shock to the teenager.

‘When I found out, I was literally amazed.

‘I couldn’t stop smiling – I literally couldn’t believe it – and the atmosphere, just the whole experience, was one of a kind...’

But at that point in the conversation, Parfit took the wheel.

‘It was one of a kind, because at the age of 14, “Tati” was attached to me 24/7, basically,’ she said with a hearty laugh.

‘But she was the best of company – we had a good time.’

Having noticed Tostevin’s talent in her Swim School days, Parfit is now delighted to see the youngster present to inspire other budding Barracudas.

‘It’s brilliant for them, because they see “Tati” come in and knowing her pedigree and the type of programme that she’s on, they just want to make sure that they’re swimming the best they can.

‘It’s just so good to see that she has taken advantage of the fact there’s all these things on the island and just gone on to pursue her dream.

‘She is very highly motivated and she always works hard,’ Parfit added while praising the fun-loving Tostevin’s ability to balance the social and sporting aspects of swimming.

‘I just hope that she continues and continues to reach her dreams. Her next goal – semi-finals at the Commonwealths.’

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