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Talented Sophie Dives Into Commonwealth Youth Games Success

It’s the countdown to the Commonwealth Youth Games and Aberdare swimmer Sophie Evans is one of the exceptionally-talented young sporting stars who will be competing in the games.

The 16-year-old YG Rhydywaun pupil has secured a coveted place in Team Wales at the competition, which takes place on the Pacific island of Samoa in September and will involve young sportspeople from across the world.

She secured her spot following outstanding performances in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle at the qualifiers inApril at the British Championships.

Competing in Samoa will be a career highlight for Sophie, who has been a water babe from birth and started swimming at Rhondda Sports Centre in Ystrad, when she was four years old.

After years of working her way up through swimming clubs – where she was coached by Chris Weller who is now the manager of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Sobell Leisure Centre – Sophie competed across Europe in 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle, as well as open water swimming.

She delivered a stunning performance at the last Wales Open Water Swim in Tenby, where she was the second fastest female (competing against swimmers of all ages) and seventh overall.

She also qualified for a spot in the European Junior Open Water Championships in Switzerland thanks to an awesome swim in the opening rounds at the Great North Swim in Lake Windermere, Cumbria, earlier this month, in which she came 3rd overall in the elite women’s race and first in the junior race.  Her performance in Cumbria is her best open water swim to date and she returns to the European Opens as a silver medallist from last year, so she has a little pressure on her shoulders.

She continues to blaze a trail across the Wales, UK and European field, while also continuing to be a model student and busy teenage girl. She is on course to secure top grades in the 11 GCSEs she has taken this year and is planning to study four A levels in sixth form.

Her gruelling training and competing schedule is supported by her parents Jason and Melanie, who both work for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and her younger brother, Tom, 9, who is also involved in swimming, as well as football, rugby and boxing.

The family gave us an insight into the dedication Sophie has to her sporting talent by revealing her schedule, which she follows five days a week, every week.

4am: Alarm goes off in the Evans household in Aberdare and either Jason or Melanie (who take it in turns to drive Sophie to practice depending on their work patterns) get prepared for the day

4.30am: Sophie is woken up

5am: On the road to the Olympic Pool in Swansea where Sophie trains.

5.45am to 7.45am: Sophie trains in the pool before showering and changing into her school uniform.

8am: On the road back to Aberdare, where Sophie has her breakfast (such as porridge from a flask) as they travel.

9am: Start school at YG Rhydywaun

3pm: Collected from school and drive back to Swansea begins

3.45pm to 5.45pm: Training in the pool, often followed by physiotherapy or a conditioning massage.

7pm to 8pm: Arrive back home in Aberdare to complete homework.

9.30pm: Bed.

In order to balance her school life and swimming schedule, Sophie is moving to a school in Swansea to study for A levels. This means she can be dropped off in Swansea in the morning for her training and then walk to school locally.

Mum Melanie said: “We are over the moon that Sophie has been selected for Team Wales at the Youth Commonwealth Games, just so very proud of her.

“This will be a chance for her to compete in front of the world among other international sports people who are also at the top of her game. It has been an ambition for her and we are just so pleased and proud that she has made it.

“Sophie has been a swimmer from the word go. She was in the water from just a few months old and began swimming lessons aged just four. Since then, it really has just been onwards and upwards and she has worked so hard.

“She joined a club after swimming lessons and worked her way up and has now competed for her country in both freestyle categories and open water swimming.

“To us she us just fearless, totally awesome, she sets her goals and she works hard to get them. Despite her challenging schedule, she continues to work hard at school and is on course to get As and A*s in her GCSEs. She has worked hard, with the support of her teachers, especially Mr Price, to achieve this also.

“For us, it is very much a family effort, we are all involved in supporting not only Sophie’s swimming,  but Tom’s sporting activities and we all take turns.

“It is a gruelling routine with a huge amount of driving around and we all take turns. But it is worth it to know your daughter is going to represent her country in front of the rest of the world.”

Cllr Ann Crimmings, Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Culture, said: “What an accomplishment by Sophie, she truly is an inspiration to other young people as she enjoys the rewards of her hard work and gruelling training schedule.

“To commit herself so strongly to swimming, while also continuing to excel as a student, is no mean feat and I am sure Sophie’s story will inspire others to follow their sporting dreams.

“All of us wish her all the very best in Samoa and will be keenly watching her races and cheering her on.”

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