Felixstowe Academy schoolgirl going to European Games in Baku, with Team GB

Rebecca Sherwin

Rebecca Sherwin - Credit: Gregg Brown

A Suffolk schoolgirl has been selected to represent Great Britain at the inaugural European Games, which begins in June.

Fourteen-year-old Rebecca Sherwin, who attends Felixstowe Academy, is one of 24 Team GB swimmers who will be going to the multi-games event in Azerbaijan.

Around 6,000 athletes from 50 European countries will be heading to the Azeri capital to compete, with Britain’s swimmers all aged between 14 and 18.

Rebecca represents Team Ipswich and head coach Dave Champion, who trained four-time Commonwealth gold medallist Karen Pickering during her successful career, said: “This is a big deal for Rebecca and it will provide a great stepping stone for her in terms of all the paraphernalia that comes with a big competition.

“She will be going away for two weeks and I don’t think she has ever been away for that long before. It will give her that bit more responsibility as she will have to look after herself.”

The teenager will be representing her country in the 50, 100 and 200m backstroke events and possibly the Medley Relay, and Champion admits she is being monitored by the Team GB hierarchy.

“When I have spoken to the head of junior swimming in Great Britain, Tim Jones, he has said that it’s not about the Rio Olympics for Rebecca, but more about Tokyo (in 2020),” explained Champion.

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“No matter how you look at it, she is still a kid and she has still got things to develop and get better at, this is the first step.”

Despite Rebecca’s tender years, Champion thinks her early success could pay dividends at Team Ipswich, with lots of younger children eager to progress at the popular Crown Pools-based club.

“To me and you she is a 14-year-old girl but to them she is a lot older and what they want to be,” added Champion.

“You can’t knock Rebecca’s training, she is there every day, and always works really hard, so that can only be a positive for the younger members at the club.”

While this will be Rebecca’s first major championships away from home, she was selected for the British Swimming Podium Potential group, that learned a lot about big-tournament expectations at the Speedo Antwerp Cup in January.

Then, she was accompanied by Champion on the talent-finding mission but this time, her inspirational coach will be back at home.

“She is chuffed to bits, but is very understated in how she is as a person and she is well aware that it is all about hard work until the Games,” he explained.

“I will not be there but that will be good for Rebecca who will learn quite a bit from me not being there.

“She is going to be on the same team as a number of top athletes at a major event and will be situated in a village environment in a big city. It will be something for her to remember.”