Preston Swimming Club duo Luke Pool and Dean Heaps target gold at World Masters Championships in South Korea

Craig Salmon talks to Preston Swimming Club member Luke Pool and Dean Heaps, who are set to compete at the World Masters Championships in South Korea

Saturday, 23rd February 2019, 9:00 am
Dean Heaps

Two swimmers are eyeing up an adventure in the Far East to show that they are ‘masters’ of the pool.

Long time Preston Swimming Club members Luke Pool and Dean Heaps are heading to South Korea in August to compete in the World Masters Championships.

Very much targeting gold medals, the pair certainly feel they have a little point to prove.

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Luke Pool

At one time they were potential Olympians, but they decided to turn their back on the possibility of becoming full-time GB swimmers to concentrate on studying and entering the world of work.

Both 24-year-old Pool and Heaps (26) admit they often wonder how fast they could have got with the benefit of being able to dedicate their lives to the sport on a daily basis.

However, the beauty of participating at Masters level means they can still compete at a high standard against competitors who are in a similar position to themselves .

“The masters basically gives you the opportunity to compete at a high level on a world and national stage,” said Pool, who will take part in the 50m and 100m freestyle in South Korea.

“Where as if you look at the Olympic swimmers – it’s their full-time job and they compete at the normal World and British Championships.

“It is what they get paid to do.

“They have full-time coaches and nutritionists where as the masters circuit, it gives us the chance to go to these kind of championships and compete against people in the same position as yourselves.”

Heaps, who will compete in the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke, added: “I do often wonder how much quicker I could have got with the benefit of full-time training.

“But I enjoy competing in what I do now – masters swimming.

“I don’t necessarily have regrets not carrying on because I wouldn’t be able to do the job that I am doing now.

“Don’t get me wrong, it would have been nice to see how far I could have got.

“I got to sixth in the country at senior level in 2009, but in the long run, I am quite happy with where I am and what I am doing.”

Likewise Pool does not spend too much time dwelling on the past and what might have been.

“I was at the age where I needed to decide what I wanted to do.,” he said.

“A lot of the top swimmers go to universities like Loughborough or Bath and dedicate themselves that way.

“But you have to get into the GB youth team when you’re younger; when you’re aged 14 or 15.

“But myself and Dean were not quite at that level back then

“Also when I was 14 I had to have six months out because of a heart condition which set me back a bit.

“I had heart palpitations. So my heart used to go faster than it should do.

“I used to pass out. Basically it was an extra electrical pathway going to my heart.

“It was sending false signals causing it to speed up. It was a very scary time.

“Then when I was 16, I took another year out whilst I was starting full-time work.

“At the time I was finding it hard to combine the two.

“There’s a lot of training involved with swimming and it was taking its toll on me at work.”

Pool spends his days working as a plumber while Heaps is a radiographer.

On top of their full-time jobs, the pair spend 16 hours a week training either in the pool or gym.

“With my work its very hard to get a full training cycle in especially with the shifts that I have to put in,” said Heaps. “They are mainly 12 hour shifts and so it usually means doing a two hour swimming session after work. It’s tough going.

“Everybody I work with thinks I am a bit crazy.”

With that sort of dedication to the sport, the pair are expected to perform well at the World Championships.

In 2017, Heaps won the British Masters title in the 200m breaststroke, while Pool was successful at last year’s event, which was staged in Plymouth.

On that occasion, he walked away with two golds in the 50m and 100m freestyle, smashing the British record in the shorter distance.

“The time I recorded in the 100m freestyle would have been good enough to win a gold at the 2017 World Championships, said Pool, who attended Broughton High School.

“It was 0.9 seconds off the masters world record.

“So my target for this year in South Korea is to win gold and set a new world record.”

Heaps, who attended Our Lady’’s RC High School, added: “I competed at the World Championships back in 2017 when it was held in Budapest.

“I came 11th in the 200m breatstroke back then so my target this year is to go much higher than that.

“Without looking, I think I finished seven seconds off a top three spot and I definitely feel that I have the potential to go much faster than that this year. My best ever time is up there.”

Both Luke Pool and Dean Heaps have been member of Preston Swimming Club for nearly 20 years. They are both coached by Steve Heaps, who is Dean’s dad.

Dean is actually club captain and has held the position for a record eights years.

“My dad is one of the biggest reasons I have come as far as I have,” Heaps said. “He gave up all of his time to take me to training.I would train twice a day.”

The World Championships are completely self funded, and will cost both swimmers around £1,500 each, it is unlikely they will be able to attend without support or some form of sponsorship. Anybody who is interested in sponsoring the pair can contact them on 07969025804 (Luke Pool) or 07787417017 (Dean Heaps).