Buckner's festive reflections on 2021

26 Dec 2021

The British Swimming mantra is "One Team, Winning Well, In Water" - and watching the year-ending BBC Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday night, it certainly felt that way. 

To be honest, it has felt that way throughout 2021, watching our athletes and staff making a positive impact in competition and outside of it too, says British Swimming CEO Jack Buckner.

We hoped that Tom Daley and Adam Peaty would do well in SPOTY, and I thought they did amazingly. But it was the other nominations where you were thinking 'wow!' There was a nomination in the Team of the Year category, two coaches up for the Coach of the Year award (Jane Figueiredo and Mel Marshall) and Ellie Challis on the three-person Young Sportsperson of the Year shortlist - so that's six in all. 

There are so many others you could have added in too, people like David McNulty, Tom Dean, Maisie Summers-Newton, Reece Dunn. It really just captured the end of the year nicely, what we are all about, the way people speak and the values of what we do. 

This year has brought us so many amazing memories in Tokyo, Budapest, Madeira and closer to home, too, when we were able to deliver COVID-safe events in the midst of a pandemic - and our athletes stepped up every time, across diving, para-swimming, swimming, artistic swimming and at water polo events too. 

Tully Kearney Tokyo 2020 [Getty]
Tully Kearney won one of Paralympics GB's eight gold medals in the pool

Everyone is really rung out and a bit frazzled at the moment, and that goes for sportspeople and people involved around sport too. Performance sportspeople have an amazing capacity for renewal and the ability to get on with the next thing, that's what sport does. But at the end of this year, people are tired. The constant pressure of COVID and what that has meant for events and staff has been massive. 

It has been an amazing year, and that's the important thing to reflect on over the break. This has been a ground-breaking 12 months for us at British Swimming, and we can take a lot from that. I am a big believer in taking that pause to reflect, enjoy what has happened and then use that as the basis for planning the future.

Linked to that is the reorganisation we are doing, which is very much in that mindset. I think a break is important, for everyone to recharge - and then on we go again. 

I'm excited for when we do go again in 2022. It's going to take some planning and management, because there are going to be a lot of competitions, there are still the pressures of COVID. We have absolutely everything in place to do really well.

Jack Laugher Adam Smallwood 3m Springboard BRONZE Tokyo 2020
Jack Laugher and coach Adam Smallwood

We know 2022 is massive, so is 2023, and then it's 2024 - there are three really big years. So we need to go into that hungry and motivated, and we don't want people to flatten themselves in 2022 either, because we've got three major Championships and then with 2023 and 2024, they need to be stepping stones. It needs to be progressive, that's how I feel.

I'm a big believer in the power of the Olympics and Paralympics to unite the movement and do everything we've seen this year. We just need to keep that in mind, and particularly with the reorganisation, make sure things bed in. 

There may be a couple of bumps in the road, and that is okay. But I am massively positive about the state of our sports, about my colleagues and the people we work with, the swimmers, para-swimmers, divers, artistic swimmers and water polo players.

I'm really excited, I can't wait actually. I'm also lucky enough to be on the FINA reform committee. I'm a massive believer in the future of the sport, it feels like there is a genuine wind of change. But we've also got to be sensitive to the fact that we are all delivering events during a pandemic. We have got to be operationally strong and have this strategic vision of the future. 

I'd just like to sign off for 2021 by wishing everyone involved with British Swimming - athletes, coaches, staff, our partners, stakeholders and the fans of each sport - a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.