“The crowd was incredible, just a wall of noise. I couldn’t hear myself think. I was so nervous I was shaking. My back foot slipped on the block and I pretty much fell in.”
For Scottish 100m and 200m breaststroke swimmer Kerry Buchan, the memories of her first senior Commonwealth debut at Melbourne 2006 are still as vivid as ever. Aged just 18, Buchan describes the experience as ‘daunting’.
Rewind two years to the 2004 Commonwealth Youth Games – also in Australia – and Buchan celebrated winning gold, silver and bronze medals in a swimming team which included current Commonwealth champions Hannah Miley and Robbie Renwick.
Now 26, Buchan is a multiple Scottish and British Champion. She is bidding to qualify for her third consecutive Commonwealth Games, having learned and competed a lot since her Australian experiences.
In 2008, she came agonizingly close to qualifying for the Beijing Olympics, missing out by just a half second. What the clock didn’t show was the fact she was recovering from whiplash and soft tissue damage suffered in a car crash the previous week.
Buchan hung up her goggles shortly after, but within four months was back in training. She said: “I try not to kick myself about the accident, these things happen. I decided to stop swimming, but I missed it and I didn’t want to leave on a negative note. I want to quit on my own terms.
“I always have my mind on the end goal. This year that’s to make my third Commonwealth Games and hopefully medal.”
Originally from Aberdeenshire, Buchan lives in Stirling and trains at the National Swimming Academy at Stirling University. For her, being part of a team is vital.
“The team pushes each other on,” explains Buchan. “If I missed training, I would feel I had let them down. We congratulate one another and celebrate the team successes.”
Her selfless personality may explain why she was given the honour of captaining the Scottish team at the 2013 Celtic Tri Nations. This altruistic nature also explains her plans once she retires from swimming.
She said: “I think it would be interesting to go round schools and teach kids how to swim. Sport is really important to development in children. They learn from being in a sports team, little things like being able to play with other children. You don’t learn that from sitting in front of a television or by playing computer games.”
But before she can even consider swim teaching and the pleasure of long lies in the morning, there is the not-so-small matter of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
A sell-out crowd at the recently-refurbished Tollcross International Swimming Centre will make for an electric atmosphere, but this time, should she qualify, there will be no slip-ups.
“If it was my first games I would feel the pressure,” added Buchan. But I’ve been there and done it. Now it’s more excitement than pressure. It’s going to be amazing, for volunteers, spectators and athletes as well.”
Follow Kerry on Twitter @Kez_b7
Photo Credit: Markus Stitz
Article by Aidan McLure, a 4th Year Journalism student at the University of Stirling