Olivia faces Europe's elite
A FORMER Potters Bar synchronised swimmer steps up her Olympic preparations against Europe s elite in Holland this week. St Albans teenager Olivia Allison, who was a member of the Furzefield-based synchro club before moving to Rushmoor, is competing in th
A FORMER Potters Bar synchronised swimmer steps up her Olympic preparations against Europe's elite in Holland this week.
St Albans teenager Olivia Allison, who was a member of the Furzefield-based synchro club before moving to Rushmoor, is competing in the European Championships alongside duet partner Jenna Randall.
After Britain's top pair struggled with flight cancellations due to the turbulent weather earlier this week, they have made it to the European Championships and are now ready to test themselves against some of the world's best athletes.
With the two leading synchro nations, Russia and Spain, competing in Eindhoven this week the next five days may prove tough for the young British pair.
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But Randall and 18-year-old Allison have looked promising since they began the year with a strong performance at the German Open.
And with the duet finishing in fifth place overall and Randall taking silver in the solo routine, they have given themselves an excellent foundation to build on.
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National performance director Biz Price is looking for another strong performance from the duet to build their confidence before they head to Beijing for the vital Olympic qualification event.
"As this is our last meet before the Olympic qualification event next month, this competition is very important for us in terms of seeing what stage we are at," she said.
"The standard at the European Championships is going to be very high and this is going to be a good test for us just four months out from the Olympics.
"Two of the top synchro nations in the world will be competing in Eindhoven, so it is very important for us to perform the best we can.
"There will be strong performances from Italy and France, so I am looking for our athletes to step up to this competition."
Commonwealth silver medallist Randall will be taking to the water in the solo event and she will join Allison to compete and build their experience as a duet.
As a duet, they will be performing their new programme in its entirety and after they debuted the new free routine earlier this year, they will be looking to go a step better and break into scores of nines.
"Our routines have come a long way since the beginning of the year," said Price.
"We performed our new routines at the German Open and from there we took the advice of top international judges and made changes.
"With the free routine I will be looking for a better level of consistency from the pair and if they can gain high eights and nines, well that would be just great."
And just a year on from their first major international competition, the girls' improvement has been nothing short of impressive.
"The girls have made huge leaps forward in terms of their fitness and their ability," said Price.
"We have an increased level of difficulty in all of their routines and the height they are getting out of the water is so much better than anything they were achieving last year.
"They have improved power and propulsion through the water and their ability to propel themselves through the water is up there with the top in the world.
"There are some elements they need to work on, but after this event we can learn from the feedback we will receive from the international judges and make changes before the Olympic qualifier in April."
The duet go into the event after a week-long camp training alongside the one of the world's top synchro nations, Spain, and the British pair have been shown just how hard they need to work to proceed further up the world rankings.
"The camp was a great chance for them to learn a lot from such a strong synchro nation," said Price.
"The national Spanish coach spent time coaching Jenna and Olivia and I took charge of the Spanish squad.
"This was a great learning experience for them, and training alongside these top athletes was fantastic.
"They were physically fatigued after the pressure of training next to the second synchro nation, but it was important for them to take part in this as it helped them realise how far they need to go to keep up with the top countries.