Your online local sport by Millar Stoddart

Medal-winner Mark Ford visits former club Lanark ASC

Mark Ford visits Lanark ASC

Smiles all round - Mark Ford and members of Lanark ASC 

A former Lanark ASC member returned on a high last week to visit the club’s swimmers sporting two European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) medals.

Mark Ford, from Carluke, won gold in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay and silver in the 4 x 100m medley relay as a part of the GB swim team competing in Baku, Azerbaijan, last month.

The 16-year-old also reached the finals in the 100m backstroke at the competition.

Swimming personal best times in all his events, Mark said stepping onto the podium to receive his gold medal was an experience he would ‘never forget’.

He said: “It was something special.

“All the way through the podium process and then hearing the national anthem play, wow, it was amazing.

“I will never forget the feeling of so much happiness, so much pride, feeling like so much part of a team and that you won it for something more than just you and your club.”

In the lead up to EYOF, the athlete took five titles at the Scottish National Open Championships in Aberdeen.

Mark competed at Lanark ASC for six years, winning multiple Scottish titles before joining City of Glasgow Swim Team to step up his training in 2017.

Karen Kelly, head coach at Lanark ASC, said: “A highlight for me was when he broke the 13 years British Age Group record for 50m backstroke in Aberdeen two years ago at the Scottish Age Group Championships, his last competition as a Lanark swimmer.

“It has been great to watch him progress and get to the level he is at now with Danielle Brayson, his coach at City of Glasgow.

“He is very dedicated, focussed and knows where he wants to be in his swimming but more importantly, he knows the amount of hard work and application that is required to reach his goals.

“Mark has never forgotten his roots and it was lovely to see him back at Lanark with his medals talking to our young swimmers.”

Mark said: “I walked in and they all started clapping and when I saw the pool and I saw Karen it just reminded me of my time spent there.

“I spent six years at Lanark and it’s a lot of time being in that pool and being with Karen and I owe a lot of my swimming career to Karen.

“Being there with them all just reminded me of when I was there, and it shows me how much people care about what I did and how much it means more people than just me.

“It’s something special that club.”

Mark swims 16 hours a week and spends a further two hours in the gym, but it is this level of dedication that led him to secure his spot on the GB swim team for the biennial EYOF – a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Mark said: “It is amazing to experience that sort of Olympic environment.

“Any athlete dreams about being on an Olympic team and this is a taster and it makes you want more.”

Talking about his son’s recent achievements, Neil Ford, said: “It certainly makes us enormously proud.

“He never ceases to surprise us in exceeding his expectations and our expectations.

“You just think at some point it won’t happen, but he just keeps on going.”

With the ripples in the water barely settled, the young swimmer has already started on his plan for next season.

Mark hopes to make the team for the European Junior Swimming Championships in Aberdeen next July, then the World Junior team in 2021 and aspires to qualify for team Scotland at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

He said: “It sounds easy enough, but I know it’s going to be a lot of work and I know what to do now that I have seen the best in Europe for my age.”

Although Mark is dedicated to his sport, it doesn’t take priority over his schoolwork.

With Highers on the horizon and university only a couple of years away, he will be juggling both education and swimming for several years to come.

While Mark says that hard work is essential to improve as a swimmer, he also thinks that having fun is important and had this advice for the younger athletes at the club.

He said: “Be able to have fun with your friends and don’t take it too seriously when you are younger.

“Just be able to enjoy yourself because if you enjoy yourself you will stick at it and if you stick at it you will get better.”

Article contributed by Alison Gilchrist.