There can be few more inspiring moments for an aspiring swimmer than taking to the pool with an Olympic champion.
That is exactly the experience Watford Swimming Club’s Ollie Taverner took home from the British Championships this week as he lined up in a heat against 50m breaststroke world record holder Adam Peaty.
Add to the mix a national title, more personal bests and a new British age group record and Taverner’s week in Sheffield has been hugely productive.
At 15 Taverner’s potential is undoubted and he believes sharing a pool with Peaty can only help him as he looks to further his career.
“It’s crazy just to say that I have been in the same race as him. It gives me a lot of experience and inspires me,” Taverner said.
“The confidence you gain from racing the best breast stroke swimmer in the world is huge and racing an Olympian was just fantastic.
“It was good to see where I was against him and it puts things in perspective as well. I now know where I need to be and how much I have to improve in the next four years to reach Olympic standard.”
Far from just being a chance to share a pool with one of the world’s finest, the championships yielded personal success for Taverner as he continued his exciting development.
He shaved half-a-second off his 50m breaststroke personal best, bettering the British record for his age group in the process, as well as qualifying for the junior 100m final with the sixth fastest qualifying time.
Having competed at the championships last year, Taverner arrived at the event with a greater level of experience and felt comfortable in his surroundings.
“It has been fantastic really. I would say the experience in general is a lot different to last year,” he said.
“I only took part in one race last year, so I didn’t really get the full experience last year. It was a lot different this time round because I was racing against older swimmers as well.
“I feel I am competing a lot better at this standard and I am bit lost for words about how well it has gone. I am more comfortable with the way things have gone this year.”
Taverner’s mum, Lisa, has seen first hand the growth her son has made over the past 12 months.
A step up to the performance squad, coupled with a change of coach and new stroke style have led to reward in the pool, and Lisa is understandably proud.
“To see him achieve like he has, I couldn’t be more proud of him to be honest,” she said.
“For him to end up competing against Peaty shows where he is and he is still only 15, so it is absolutely phenomenal. It was a real hold your breath moment.
“This time last year we were in Glasgow for the same year and I think he found it all a bit much. This time round I have seen a real maturity in him and he has coped much better.
“When we realised he would be in a heat with Peaty we were panicked about it and he was very relaxed and looking forward to the opportunity.
“It is awe-inspiring as a parent to be able to take a step back and think it’s OK, he is in control.”
Taverner’s championship could get better still as he takes part in the 200m breaststroke tomorrow. He will then wait to see if he has made the European squad next Friday.