Silver, gold and a team world record
by Sandra Duncan
Swimming has always been a part of Rachael Gauld’s life.
A Human Resources analyst in ConocoPhillips’ Aberdeen, Scotland office, she joined a local swimming club in Elgin in Morayshire when she was eight and swam with them until she was 18. Swimming gave her something to focus on outside of school and provided access to a great network of friends.
“I took a break from swimming to study law and human resources at the University in Glasgow. When I moved to Aberdeen, I decided to join the Silver City Blues (SCB) swimming club to meet new people. I knew very little about Masters swimming and I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought I might last a week, but six years later, I am still part of the team,” Rachael said.
Swimming remains an important – and very successful – part of Rachael’s life. At the Swim England Masters National Championships in Sheffield, England in October, her relay team smashed the women’s 4x200-meter freestyle short course record. This gold adds to the silver medals the team won at the FINA World Masters Championship in Budapest earlier in the year. Swimming alongside Rachael on the relay team was Process Engineer Louise Kennedy. With teammates Kelly McIntosh and Laura Robertson, they formed an unstoppable force, taking more than five seconds off the previous world marker with a time of 8:53.34.
“The four of us get on really well and we train together regularly,” said Rachael. “It was Louise’s first international competition as a Masters swimmer, so it was exciting to share that experience with her. Each team member brings different strengths to the race and it was lovely that it all came together so well at a major meet.”
For Rachael, winning two golds and a silver at the European competition the previous year was special because the events were held in London’s Olympic pool. “It was great to compete there and for our club to do well. I remember being so nervous before racing in my first event. Luckily, that went better than I could have hoped and the good performances continued from there.
“Winning three individual silver medals at the world championships was a massive achievement for me. When competing in relays, you really don’t know how well each team is going to perform in advance, and we were astonished to have done so well. I think it was still sinking in the next day that we had finished second in the world in our age category!”
Formed in 1985, SCB is a Masters swimming club for adults with members ranging in age from 20 to 80. With 85 training members, it is the largest Masters club in Scotland and has won the Scottish Masters Competition team trophy for the last five years.
“Masters swimming is for everyone. Each person has their own goals,” Rachael said.
In addition to training five times a week, Rachael plays the flute in a local orchestra and is an avid fan of cinema and theatre. It’s not surprising that she met her husband Scott through SCB; the couple married in September. “The run-up to the wedding was quite stressful,” she said. “Training for the world competition finished just a month earlier, so there was a lot to do in a short time. We did manage to get some much-needed time off after the wedding at Loch Katrine in the Trossachs area of the Scottish Highlands.”
For Rachael, the best thing about swimming is the friends she has made.
“Training before or after work in the cold winter months in Aberdeen is the most difficult part. It’s dark outside, and that can be demotivating. That’s why it is important to have such a great group to train with; we keep each other going. Swimming gives you time to yourself away from the pressures of everyday life, and it is good for your physical and mental well-being – I wholeheartedly recommend it.”