LUCY Worrall returned from her biggest challenge yet with a silver medal and a conviction that she can compete against the best swimmers in the world.
The 16-year-old from Vicars Cross represented Great Britain at the World Junior Championships in Monterrey, Mexico, taking on the best young swimmers on the planet.
And she proved why she is regarded as a London Olympic Games prospect by helping Britain’s women’s 800m freestyle team to a silver medal behind the USA and ahead of Canada.
Lucy, ranked in the top 10 in Britain for the 400m and 800m freestyle and the 200m butterfly, also finished in the top 20 for each of her five individual races.
“It was amazing,” she said. “It was not intimidating so much as exciting.
“I was there with swimmers from the USA and Australia, many of whom are future Olympic athletes, and I was there as their equal, winning a medal.”
Chester Catholic High School pupil Lucy had earlier this year been to Adelaide to take part in the Queensland Open and Age Championships against the cream of Australian talent, but the World Championships were another eye-opener.
“The standard in Mexico was much higher,” said Lucy. “Our coaches told us to remember the people we were racing against because these would be our opposition for some years to come. It was by far the toughest event I have been involved with.”
As well as testing Lucy against the world’s best young swimmers, the trip also gave her a taste of the intensity of competition she could expect should she make it to the London Olympics in 2012.
“The team support was crucial,” she said. “Not just the coaches, who were amazing, but the cheering on from the rest of the team.
“The championships were six days long and I swam every day in competition. By the halfway point I was worn out but you can’t show that to your competitors.
“When it was over we were exhausted and the coaches told us that an Olympic competition is over eight days.
“While you would swim less during an Olympic competition than we did in Mexico, it was a real lesson in the importance of stamina.”
Back in the UK, Lucy is a member of the Swim Flintshire programme.
Her coach Stewart Clamp said: “Lucy has never competed on that scale before so to come back with a medal is a fantastic achievement.
“The experience she will have got from it is colossal.”
Lucy’s next challenge is to medal at the European Junior Championships in Belgrade, which begin on August 27.