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Profile: Helen Don Duncan

Will Not Defend European Title


Anita Lonsbrough

Helen Don-Duncan became the first British female swimmer in 12 years to win a European Junior title as she collected the gold in the 200 backstroke at last year's championships.

This year she has stepped up into the senior ranks, something that made her "really chuffed to make the senior team and be with the older and more famous swimmers."

But life is not all plain sailing for the 16 year old from Wigan. GSCE exams have an added priority this year. Fitting her studying and swimming training into a day has been a total commitment by both daughter and parents.

Mother Linda, a special needs assistant, and father John, a county crown green bowler and a deputy head at a primary school, take it in turn to get their daughter up at 5:00 a.m. and in the pool by 5:50.

Following school she is back in the water for another training session! So when does she do her homework? The teenager admits to being "good at arranging my time." Although course work for geography and music has been a little difficult to fit in, no training on Saturday and having most of Sunday free has been a great help.

In the 200 back at the European Championships Trials last April, Don-Duncan finished runner-up to the British record holder, Jo Deakins, but lowered her own British junior record in the process.

Don-Duncan is quite prepared to make decisions for herself.

Even before Deryk Snelling, the Director of Performance, informed her that she would not compete in the European junior championships to be held in Glasgow, she had made the choice not to defend the title she won last year, although she does admit to being "a little disappointed."

Don-Duncan, a pupil at Cansfield High School, was not a water baby. Her swimming learning curve started at the age of ten. But within three years she was in the A squad, where Ivor Tattum rotated her through 180 degrees to become a backstroker from her first love of breaststroke. Tattum is still her coach.

School work dictates ,and with GSCE's on the horizon, she had to miss travelling with the British team to Barcelona and Canet for competition followed by a week of high altitude training.

These extra curricular activities, which are far from normal, have been supported by her fellow students. A group of them travelled to Sheffield last year for the Olympic trials, where they proudly displayed a Don-Duncan banner.

Don-Duncan is a name one will not easily forget, But Helen Don-Duncan wants to be remembered not for her unusual name, but for her achievements in the swimming pool.

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