Swimming Stars: Hannah Matthews
Sixteen-year-old Hannah Matthews is one of the hardest working swimmers at the club – both in the pool and at land training.
Described by the coaching staff as “always giving 100%”, she is a glowing example to other swimmers of how determination, persistence and a strong work ethic will help you to achieve your goals.
Hannah started swimming at an early age, joining swim school in Stamford at just four years old. She became a minor celebrity when the local newspaper sent its photographer to capture her first lesson.
When she was six, the swim school had a day at Deepings Swimming Club learning how to dive and it was then that the coaches spotted her potential.
“They asked me to stay behind afterwards and then invited me to a trial,” Hannah said. “But we got the times wrong and I came when it had just finished. I didn’t have my goggles so I swam for about five minutes and luckily they asked me to join.”
Despite showing a lot of early promise, it hasn’t been an easy route to county and regional level but Hannah’s message for other swimmers is to “keep trying and pushing yourself. It will come as long as you try hard”.
Deepings head coach Lynn Chapman also played a crucial role in helping Hannah to achieve her goals with some important advice.
“Hannah has always been a hard worker,” Lynn said. “As soon as she stopped focusing on the end result, i.e. getting a Midland time, and started focusing on the process, she was more relaxed and this was when she achieved her time.”
We caught up with Hannah poolside to find out more about that elusive Midland time, her proudest moment in swimming and why she likes pitting herself against the boys at land training.
What’s your favourite stroke?
Either 50m or 200m freestyle. On a good day it’s the 200 because it is strong and smooth. But with the 50s, you can just give it your all!
Pre- and post-race meals?
Beforehand, it’s eggs on toast and orange juice and afterwards, home-made banana milkshake, chicken salad sandwich and protein bar.
What do you most love about swimming?
Being part of a team and racing. Everyone helps to keep you going. You spend so long at the pool [Hannah trains 14 hours in the pool and 1.5 hours land work], you get to make good friends.
When did you get your first county time?
In 2016, in 50m breaststroke [aged 13]. It was the first of a few. I also got 50m freestyle and some 100s. I was never a breaststroker, but I took four seconds off my PB to get the time. At counties, I spent most of the time watching the older swimmers compete. They were all really helpful.
You have been so close to Midland Times, often achieving them just after qualifying has closed. How did you deal with the setbacks?
It was hard. But you know you’ll get there eventually, you just have to keep pushing and have the right mind-set. You have to see the good things in every race and understand how to improve. In training, you have to give it your best every time and never give up.
What advice did Lynn give you?
She told me to focus on doing the right things, to keep going and that it would all come good. She also pointed out all the improvements that I’d made.
So how did it feel to get your first Midland Time this year at counties?
It felt really good – it was the best feeling. It was like a weight had been lifted. I did it in the 50m freestyle and I had to go under 29 seconds. I was so close in the heat, swimming 29.1. And then I did it in the finals. Now I need to keep training hard for the rest of the season.
The Spinroom land training coaches say you are the strongest by a long way – it’s impossible to break you! Do you enjoy that part of training?
I love it. It’s difficult and I like to push myself. It’s fun because it’s hard work! I’ve become a lot stronger and I like the competitiveness, especially against the boys like Tom [Adams]. We did a tyre test and I matched Tom! I feel like my swimming has improved as well because of the work we do.
What’s your favourite and least favourite swimming sessions?
My favourite is Friday night because we often do relays and you have the Saturday off! Least favourite is the mornings, but they are still not too bad. You just have to get up and go.
What’s your proudest moment so far in swimming?
I got the coach’s cup two years ago for my hard work. Also, at the Tulip meet last year, which was my best meet, I was top girl. I PB’d in every event and I was second in the skins [50m freestyle where the swimmer finishing last is eliminated until two compete the final]. I also placed first or second in every event.
You also achieved all that while sitting poolside revising for your GCSEs!
Yes! During my exams I didn’t swim Monday or Thursday night but I did every other session, including all the mornings. I think it helped – I was happy with my results.
There isn’t much time when you’re not swimming, but do you have any interests away from the pool?
I do as many team sports as I can. We got to the county finals for netball and I also did the 800m finals at counties as well. I love any sport.
Such a lover of sport must have a sporting hero – who and why?
It has to be Michael Phelps because of what he has achieved. But also my friends at the club, Holly [Leggott] and Beth [Eagle-Brown]. They are always happy, they always keep me going and they work hard and have achieved so much.