Nia’s a knockout performer in the swimming pool!
The County Swimming Championships recently took place over two days in the wonderful pool at Haverfordwest Leisure Centre and by anyone's standards this year's event proved to be a memorable one for ten year old Nia Llewellyn.
The talented all-round swimmer from Haverfordwest Seals Club took on her contemporaries from Milford Haven, Tenby, Crymych, Pembroke and Fishguard- and came away with an amazing collection of EIGHT gold and TWO silver medals as reward for her commitment and competitive spirit!
Personal bests galore – and three Welsh No 1s!
Not content with that little lot Nia claimed a string of personal bests and four new county records in the 50 metres for butterfly, backstroke and best stroke, plus the 100 metres individual medley.
Then there was a gold medal apiece for the 100 and 200m breaststroke, the 100m freestyle and 100m backstroke, followed by silver medals in the 50m freestyle and 200m individual medley and there might have been an 11th medal but after so much competition Nia understandably decided not to compete in her other event - the 200m freestyle.
The other terrific bonus for Nia was the fact that straight after the county championships she learned that she was ranked No 1 in Wales in her age group for the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke!
Early start with mum Helen paid off
It now seems a long way from the time when mum Helen, who swam for Llanelli as a youngster, took Nia to mother and baby swimming sessions, and then mother and toddler classes led by Sue Christopher, where Nia took to the water from the outset and by the time that she was four, on a family holiday in Australia, jumped in the deep end and casually made her way to the side!
Then it was on to the 'Learn to Swim' programme and by the time she was six Nia had passed all the component parts with Sue Christopher, who also coached her at Haverfordwest Seals Swimming Club, - and a year later took part in her first competitive race at the county championships, where she won a gold medal in the 50m breaststroke and a bronze in the Under 8 freestyle against girls a year older than she was.
Medals galore in a range of strokes
Since then Nia has won gold medals every year in the club championships and has managed to break several long-standing records in the process, and whilst she now regards the breaststroke as her strongest discipline it is worth noting that she has systematically done well in all four and a total of 80+ medals is testament to that fact.
Included in that top tally are silver medals in the Urdd National Championships over the past three years, two of which have seen her competing against others from all over the country that were a year older, with success also achieved at the National Swimming Pool in Cardiff in relay races as well.
Moving on up with experience
Nia served notice that she was in good form this year when she won a silver medal in the Development Meeting of the Summer Championships in the 100m breastroke for girls of 10+ and under, where she was just shaded out of gold on the touch for the finish at the National Pool in Swansea.
Small wonder then that Nia is involved with the county's talented youngsters in the Skills' Squad that is coached by Sam Jones, with Craig Nelson always keeping a weather eye on rewarding excellence by eventually calling swimmers into the Development Squad when they are a little older.
Hard work paying dividends
The Skills Squad meets up with Sam, usually on a Saturday, every six weeks and spends the whole day together, in and out of the pool.
Overall, her swimming commitment means she is training four evenings every week with the Seals squad that is coached by Simon Mottram, Celia White and mum Helen, with an hour each on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, plus two hours on Thursdays - and a much-needed rest evening on Tuesdays.
These sessions involve a quick pool-side warm up and then swimming lots of lengths to build up stamina whilst improving technique, with advice and encouragement given in equal measure, but always with an emphasis on doing their best and not just coasting through sessions. It is a policy that has served The Seals, and the Pembrokeshire squads, well over recent times!
Other sporting involvement
Outside of her swimming, Nia also loves being involved with Pony Club at Bowling’s Riding School and has enjoyed some success with the swimming relay team at Glan Cleddau School – and in the summer months has played tag rugby for the Cleddau Wildcats girls’ team which has taken on the likes of Lampeter, Whitland and Carmarthen, and done really well in the competition.
Ask Nia about her ambitions at such an early age and it is perhaps understandable that she just wants to keep enjoying all the hard work that she does and maintaining the fun element of swimming whilst retaining the competitive edge that is part of her make-up.
And finally . . .
It is great to report that she is extremely grateful for all the help she is been given my mum Helen and dad John, who used to play rugby for Pembrokeshire Schools, Haverfordwest and Llangwm, with 12 year old brother Owen always keen to encourage her as he follows his own sporting interests of football with Prendergast Villa and rugby at Narberth.
Others that Nia would like to thanks are all the people involved in swimming who have encouraged her and given her some great coaching and every encouragement along the way.
Nia Llewellyn is definitely one to watch for the future because of her enjoyment of participation alongside her commitment and will to win – and we wish this talented young swimmer further success in her chosen sport because she deserves to do well!