Dubai-based swimmer will target Pakistan national records in what could be one of her last major events before she starts to crack the university books, writes Osman Samiuddin.
The hardest thing she has done in her life, or for a while at least reckons Lianna Swan, are her A-Level exams, for which she sat last month.
That is difficult to believe for two reasons. One, she still has her final A-Level exams to sit next year and biology is one of her subjects.
Two, at just 17, she is already a pretty hardened swimmer, having competed in the Asian Games, the Fina World Cup in Dubai in 2011 as well as the Fina World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona in 2013. The next few days will also not be particularly easy. She is about to take part in as many as five events at the Commonwealth Games, in Glasgow.
The Dubai-based Swan, who studies at Jumeirah College, is already a bit of a veteran. She will once again be representing Pakistan, as a dual national daughter of a Pakistani mother and British father. Preparations for the Games have, however, not been ideal for Swan, who trains at Hamilton Aquatics.
Turns out those A-Levels have been getting in the way. “During my A-Levels, the last few weeks especially when I had my exams, I had to cut down training quite a lot,” Swan said.
“It’s not ideal, but you have to do it for your exams. Then right after them I’ve just been swimming right up to now. Hopefully, it’s been enough. I feel like there could’ve been a bit more but there’s not much you can do about it now.”
If it is consolation, she thinks the exams went pretty well.
There have also been the usual last-minute organisational shenanigans, familiar to anyone who has ever dealt with a Pakistan sports body. Not until last Saturday did Swan know precisely which races she would be competing in. The family had been informed of her selection for a 62-member Pakistan contingent but had no idea which events she would be in.
That meant keeping travel arrangements to Glasgow on hold until the last minute. Finally, they were told by the Pakistan Swimming Federation: Swan will swim the 50-metre and 100m freestyle and breaststroke and the 200m individual medley.
Swan takes the business of representing Pakistan seriously. She chose to represent them a few years ago because it offered her the chance to compete internationally. She travels there regularly to take part in the national championships and trials. She gets on with her teammates. She knows how it can get and laughs it off.
“I’ve been swimming for Pakistan for about four years now. I don’t speak Urdu, but it’s not difficult to communicate – they all speak English and are fine with me not speaking Urdu. We just communicate in English.
“They have a good squad. I do know the girls quite well now, as I’ve been swimming with them for a few years. Anam [Bandey] is based in England and I’m quite good friends with her. I see her quite a bit. Then there’s Kiran Khan,” Pakistan’s best female swimmer, “and her sister. Kiran has been around for a long time so we know here pretty well.”
Swan is not far from being one of Pakistan’s best. She holds seven national records and sees more of those as her main aims for the Games.
“Obviously, I’d like to swim my best and better than I have done recently, in Glasgow,” she said. “It’d be nice to get some new national records. The 50m freestyle, 50m breaststroke would be nice. I’d like those two records.”
The scheduling may play a part.
Her first race is the 50m breaststroke on Thursday, followed by the 50m freestyle on Friday. Then, after a break on Saturday, she will be in three races on Sunday: the 100m breaststroke, 100m freestyle and 200m individual medley.
Swan concedes it will be physically and logistically tough, even though she has been training with the Beckenham Swimming Club in the UK over the past week.
“I will have to see what the schedule is like and whether I have time to get to all three,” she said. “I’ll have to sort it out once I am there. If it is, then it will be quite a tough morning.”
That may or may not be tougher than her exams this summer, but after she completes her A-Levels next year, difficult choices will have to be made. “I’d hope to continue swimming, as I’ve been doing it seriously since I was 11, but it really depends.
“I’ll be going to university the year after next. My last year of A-Levels will be pretty tough as well. It would be nice to keep it going but I’m just going to have to work on balancing it when I go to university.”