by Lex Higlett
Back in Early September I jumped on a plane and traveled to Slovenia to meet up with my old teammates from my UK club London Otter, at the 2018 European Masters Championships. I’d never been to Slovenia before so when my friends from my old club said they were entering, I figured it was a good excuse to see them & a bit more of the world.
The Championships were held over 2 weeks with 4,529 participants from 40 countries, competing in Swimming (2793), Open Water (1112), Water polo (892), Diving (72) and Synchronized Swimming (218), and it was pretty fun.
Being relatively new to Masters swimming, this was only my second International Masters meet. The first was the European Championships in London in 2016, which while fun, was a bit of a nightmare. An administrative oversight lead to meet entries far exceeding the competition and the warm-up pools capacity. Half the races (including all my individual events)ended up being held in the warm-up pool. Warm-up was 10 minute slots in seriously overcrowded pools. Racing finished after11pm at night & you had to line up for 2+ hours to get into the pool. It was fun, like swimming meets are. But far from ideal.
Slovenia could not have been more different. The swimming competition was held in Kranj, at a venue with two Olympic swimming pools. The outdoor competition pool was lined with sun umbrellas, cheering teammates and spectators. While the indoor pool was used for warm up and cool down. The weather wasn’t like summer for the first few mornings, with heavy, heavy rain, but the event organizers, commentators and volunteers created a great atmosphere and kept the competition running right on time until the sunshine arrived in the second half of the week.
As the weather got better, so did my results. Our Ladies 120+-4 x 50 Freestyle team successfully defended our title from London, winning gold, and our Mixed120+-4 x 50 Freestyle team picked up Bronze. I was pleased to also get my first individual International Masters swimming medal too; Bronze in the Ladies 35-39-400 Freestyle. My goal had been to finish top 10 in my events, so was very happy with my 5th place finishes in the 100, 200 and 800 Free, and a 9th in the 50 Free.
When the pool racing finished on Friday, it was time for the Open Water on a beautiful open water course in Lake Bled. Lake Bled was stunning; with amazingly still clear water, a castle on the hill & a small island in the middle, complete with an old Church. Racing started each day at 10am with 15 minutes between waves for the 3-km and 20minutes between waves for the 5-km. It was a pretty amazing place to race, and one of the easiest. The course was super straight lines with buoys evenly spaced and joined by a rope. So you didn’t need to do a lot of spotting, and with such smooth water, and no men in my wave, it was calmer than most training sessions. I raced in the 3-km event on Saturday, finishing 5th (again), then paddle boarded around on the lake to watch friends swim the 5-km on Sunday.
Overall I had a blast. It was a great week of racing and once again I realized how lucky I am to be part of the amazing Masters swimming community, and to have made friends from all around the world, swimming.
A few things to know if you want to compete at Europeans in the future.
– The 2020 Championships are in Budapest, Hungary.
– As a US swimmer you can compete, but you’ll need to find a European club to swim for, and you’ll need to be a member of that club for a year prior to the event to be eligible.
– Times that you swim at the championships are not eligible for USMS Top Ten rankings. For your swims to be considered for USMS top 10 and records, you must be representing USMS.
– Try to arrive a few days before the meet if you can. Turns out jet lag is definitely a thing.