Cassie Wild loves swimming now but it wasn’t always the case for the young Scot heading to the Olympics
Cassie Wild took up swimming relatively late and admits she didn’t enjoy it at first. Now the Edinburgh-born backstroke specialist is heading to the Olympic Games, one of four Scots selected in Great Britain’s swimming team for Tokyo.
It was watching the London Olympics as a 12-year-old that provided the spark of inspiration for Wild whose attitude at the time had been to focus on other sports.
Her mum Zowie had insisted that she learn to swim and it was only when Cassie started competing that she began to enjoy it.
“I always have to point out how late I started swimming,” explained Wild, now 20. “So I wasn’t learning to swim and thinking, ‘oh I want to be an Olympian’.
“It wasn’t until the 2012 Games that I saw an actual Olympics and thought I’d really like to do that.
“By that point I had gone through all the possible sports that I could have to avoid swimming! So at that point I was just focused on the swimming. I remember looking at the crowd and how many people were there. I thought it looked amazing and I would love to do that.
“So it was the atmosphere as much as the sport that I remember.”
Wild is part of Steven Tigg’s training group at the University of Stirling, five of whom have been picked for the Olympics. Fellow Scots Ross Murdoch, Duncan Scott and Kathleen Dawson will be heading to Tokyo along with Middlesbrough’s Aimee Willmott.
“I’ve thought about it but it still doesn’t seem real to me yet,” admitted Wild. “I feel like I need to be on the plane and then I’ll think, ‘yeah I’m definitely going now’.
“But I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself as it’s the biggest thing I’ve done so far in my career. I’ll just aim to swim the fastest I can and know that’s the best I can do.
“I would obviously love to make the final but if my best doesn’t get me there then at least I’ll know there’s no more I could have done. Then hopefully by 2024 I’ll be in a better position and definitely thinking about finals.”
The disruption cause by Covid not only led to the Olympics being postponed by a year but also played havoc with training programmes. With pools closed for long periods it was particularly tough on swimmers but Wild turned the negative into a positive, using the time to work on her strength and conditioning.
“To be honest, I think lockdown was the best thing that could have happened to me,” she said. “I gained a lot of confidence and if anything it made me more determined to get back in and really improve. I feel that explains why I’ve been swimming so well.
“Before lockdown I had plateaued a fair bit when transitioning from junior to senior. And that knocked my confidence quite a lot. And then just before lockdown I had a PB at BUCS [the British Universities championships] in February, the first for about three years.
“So when we went into lockdown I felt quite motivated to keep going. I did a lot of work, cycling every day and had a weights bench at home. I did workouts with Scottish Swimming. I knew I had put in the work so when we came back I felt quite confident in myself.
“For the first week it was nice to have a break from the pool. But by week 14 I was ready to get back in!”