Tai takes British Swimming Athlete of the Year title

10 Nov 2019

Alice Tai saw off her competition to claim the overall British Swimming Athlete of the Year crown, receiving a standing ovation from a full house in Leicester.

After winning the Para-Swimming Athlete of the Year award, Tai was up against the winners of all of the other Athlete of the Year awards for overall title, which was a who’s who of aquatics stars in the UK.

Prior to Tai visiting the stage to pick up her first award of the evening, Adam Peaty was awarded Swimming Athlete of the Year after his trio of World titles this summer, with Jack Laugher named Diver of the Year, having picked up two medals himself in Gwangju. Kate Shortman continues to go from strength to strength and deservedly collected the Artistic Swimmer of the Year award, whilst Lily Turner and Charlie Brogan were crowned Female and Male Water Polo Athletes of the Year respectively.

With 2019 a brilliant year for British Swimming across all disciplines, it was always going to be a hard fought battle, but an independent panel of experts named Tai the victor. Clearly very emotional as she spoke to Hazel Irvine on stage for a second time, Tai said:

“Shocked is definitely a good way to describe it. Adam Peaty is just such an incredible athlete, as is everyone else who was nominated and won their categories, and honestly for him going sub 57 is insane, so to have received the overall Athlete of the Year this evening is an absolute honour.”

Talking about those seven world titles, Tai added:

“I don’t think it’ll ever fully sink in! Sometimes I think it has and then I’ll have some sort of media opportunity and I’ll have to pose with all my medals - as I’m putting them all on and people are commenting on it I’m like, wow, this is crazy!”

Looking ahead to 2020, the Ealing swimmer said:

“My head is in a great place going into Tokyo - I’m enjoying training and I’m just enjoying every aspect of my life pretty much, so I’m really looking forward to it and everything in between. We’ve got Europeans as well and obviously the World Series are back, so just doing as much racing as I possibly can and seeing where I can go with it towards Tokyo.”

Adam Peaty had to see off competition from Duncan Scott and James Wilby for the Swimming award, all three men returning from the World Championships as multi-medallists, namely as part of that infamous Men’s Medley Relay squad that stopped America’s domination in the event. Referencing that, Peaty commented afterwards:

“It’s probably one of those moments that I’ll remember for the rest of my life in terms of the minute details. When Duncan dived in we were behind America and Russia, who both have world class swimmers, so for him to come back on that last 25m was extremely exciting. I started jumping up and down with 25m to go and it got closer and closer and then he chewed them up in the last five metres – I’ve never seen anything like it!”

It was a good night for the National Centre Loughborough as Peaty’s coach Mel Marshall was named Swimming Coach of the Year having steered the breaststroker, Luke Greenbank and that Medley Relay team to medals at the World Championships. She was quick to thank the wider support network of staff and practitioners who make pushing the boundaries of human performance possible. Kayla Van der Merwe was named Swimming Emerging Athlete of the Year after a summer that saw her win World and European Junior medals as well as breaking British age group records.

Unable to be there to collect the award in person, Jack Laugher scooped the Diver of the Year gong for the second consecutive year, whilst his City of Leeds coach Adam Smallwood deservedly won Diving Coach of the Year having guided Laugher and his synchro partner Dan Goodfellow to World silver, as well as Laugher’s individual bronze. On top of that Anthony Harding secured Diving Emerging Athlete of the Year, a great night for the Leeds contingent.

After a remarkable London 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, Tai took the top prize, but there was also recognition for Glasgow’s rising star Louis Lawlor who was named Para-Swimming Emerging Athlete of the Year after winning bronze in the capital, whilst Jacquie Marshall won Para-Swimming Coach of the Year, her trio of medal winning athletes Ellie Robinson, Maisie Summers-Newton and Zara Mullooly collecting it on her behalf.

On to Artistic Swimming and it was Kate Shortman who took top billing for the discipline after sharing the award with synchro partner Izzy Thorpe 12 months earlier. The duet’s coach Paolo Basso took home the Coach of the Year award, the Italian having done wonders since her appointment at the helm of the Bristol based setup. She said:

“It means really a lot, because it somehow pays off the hard work we do - it’s a big thing for me. It’s really a pleasure to coach them (Kate and Izzy) because they are hard workers - they are so determined and I feel we share the three of us this passion to get to the Olympic Games. We want to make it, we really want to go to Tokyo 2020 and we are doing whatever we can to make it.”

Last but by no means least were our Water Polo winners Lily Turner and Charlie Brogan, who have both been on fine form in 2019. Turner has continued her progress at the University of California, Berkeley, whilst youngster Brogan continues to belie his youth both at national and international level. The coaching accolade went to Phil Powell, the Solihull coach having done a sterling job in guiding the GB U17 Men to fourth at the EU Nations, despite being a year younger than their rivals.

Watch interviews with all award recipients on the British Swimming YouTube playlist here.

2019 British Swimming Award Winners

  • Alice Tai, Overall British Swimming Athlete of the Year 2019
  • Jack Laugher, Diving Athlete of the Year 2019 Sponsored by GLL
  • Alice Tai, Para-Swimming Athlete of the Year 2019  Sponsored by Everyone Active
  • Adam Peaty, Swimming Athlete of the Year 2019 Sponsored by Tenerife Top Training
  • Kate Shortman, Artistic Swimming Athlete of the Year 2019
  • Lily Turner, Water Polo Female Athlete of the Year 2019
  • Charlie Brogan, Water Polo Male Athlete of the Year 2019
  • Adam Smallwood, Diving Coach of the Year 2019  Sponsored by Traveleads
  • Jacquie Marshall, Para- Swimming Coach of the Year 2019
  • Melanie Marshall, Swimming Coach of the Year 2019 Sponsored by SOS
  • Paola Basso, Artistic Swimming Coach of the Year 2019
  • Phil Powell, Water Polo Coach of the Year 2019
  • Anthony Harding, Diving Emerging Athlete of the Year 2019
  • Louis Lawlor, Para-Swimming Emerging Athlete of the Year 2019 Sponsored by UP&GO
  • Kayla Van der Merwe, Swimming Emerging Athlete of the Year 2019 Sponsored by SOS