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Competing as a Master
There are World Championships at the top end of the sport with a range of competitive opportunities for Masters cascading down to local events. There are also Masters competing in diving, synchronised swimming and water polo.
If you’re looking for the more competitive side of Masters Swimming then look at a number of the keenly contested national and regional events. One key event is the British Masters Championships held in June. It takes place over a long course (50m pool). There is also the ASA (English) Masters Championships, normally held in October over a 25m course. Details of these events can be found on the calendar at the British Swimming website. Scotland and Wales have their own national events.
Some county swimming associations organise Masters competitions and some 40-50 Masters competitions are organised by individual swimming clubs, held throughout the year. There is also the national Inter-Counties Competition swum in regions. The results are collated on a 'postal swim' basis. For those who wish to travel further afield, there are World and European Championships, as well as a large number of open competitions internationally, just as there are in Great Britain.
Choice of races
The British Masters championships includes the whole range of recognised long course events (50m, 100m and 200m of each stroke, 400m, 800m, and 1500m freestyle, and 200m and 400m individual medley for both men and women. Additionally, there are male, female, and mixed relays swum over 4 x 50m.
The ASA (English) Masters Championships include all of these events plus the 100m individual medley. The many club meets include only a proportion of the standard events, typically only the 50m and 100m events and 100m individual medleys and relays.
Masters who swim in 10 of the recognised 17 LC or 18 SC events throughout the year at qualifying Masters meets (ie meets whose results are recorded in the Masters rankings) are also automatically entered into the British Swimming Masters Decathlon Competition.
Qualification and rules
Unlike mainstream swimming, Masters competitions rarely impose a qualifying standard, so if you wish to take part in a Masters event you can … you simply join a club and send in your entry.
Competitions are almost always seeded on the basis of ability, and therefore no matter what standard you have reached it is likely that you will be in the pool with people of similar ability. At present, only very large international events such as the World Championships, need to impose (modest) qualifying standards. Otherwise, everyone who wants to take part is welcome.
Masters competitions are held under the same rules as apply in mainstream swimming, and races are as keenly contested. But there is always an informal air.
Masters and the other aquatic disciplines
Open water swimming (competitive outdoor long distance) events often include a Masters or 'veterans' section. There are regular Masters events in open water swimming. There is also a national Masters championship in synchronized swimming.
The World Masters Championships include all aquatic disciplines - swimming, open water, water polo, diving, and synchro, and there are also European Championships in these disciplines (though water polo is held separately).
It is not always necessary to travel to compete. There is an annual half-hour competition organised by the ASA called the T-30 Challenge. The objective is to find out the swimmers and club teams who can swim the greatest distance in 30 minutes in their local pool. Click here to find out more about the T-30 Challenge.
There is also a one-hour competition organised by the British Long Distance Swimming Association. The aim is to swim as far as you can, in your own pool, in one hour. A team competition runs in parallel with the individual events.
Both of these are 'postal swims': each swimmer submits his or her performance to a central co-ordinator who produces an overall result, with recognition going to the best swimmers in each age group.
(Information Courtesy of British Swimming)
If Masters swimmers do want to take part in competitions you are well catered for - just choose what’s right for you. The sport remains one in which all who want to compete can do so because almost all Masters competitions don’t have qualifying standards to meet or squads onto which you have to be selected.
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