Five minutes with: Oliver Morgan
From BUCS medals and breaking UoB Club Records, to completing the backstroke treble at the British Championships and competing for Great Britain against the best in the world, 2023 has been a year to remember for current Sport, Physical Education and Coaching Sciences student and Elite Sport Scholar Ollie Morgan.
Following his incredible debut at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka (Japan) in August – in which Ollie placed 9th in both the 100m and 200m backstroke, as well as 5th in the Medley Relay – Ollie has since been identified for further support from British Swimming as part of their World Class Performance Pathway, and secured his place as ‘One to Watch’ going forward.
We caught up with Ollie to hear more about his breakthrough year, how he manages to balance his studies alongside elite sport and what he’s got his sights set on next.
Q: It’s safe to say that the 2022-23 season has been the biggest of your career so far; what do you put this progression and success down to?
A: I’ve had a lot of progression whilst being at the University of Birmingham and I think it’s got to come down to the team that we’ve built around me. Whether it be strength & conditioning, Gary [Coach and Head of Swimming at UoB], or through things like physio, sports massage, nutrition, psychology…and being supported to manage my studies alongside swimming this year through being a scholar. The level that we’ve reached has been a lot higher due to the fact that I’ve got that excellent team around me to help support me and my needs.
Q: If you could sum up your debut World Championships’ experience in 3 words, what words would you choose?
A: I think I’ve got to go with: AMAZING first of all. It was just an incredible experience to be there and be part of that GB team. I think the next one has got to be MOTIVATING – going there, being so close to making those individual finals and also being so close to making the medals in the relay was so motivating, especially moving into next year where we’ve got the Olympic Games. It’s just going to help motivate me through next season and again if I make another World Championships. Making those finals was a big thing. I think the last word has got to be FUN. It was just such good fun to be out there racing the top guys in the world and to come away with the performances that I did.
Q: As well as the competition itself, what was your experience of Japan whilst you were there?
A: Being in Japan for a World Championships was incredible and the country itself was too. It was such a different experience to being over here in the UK, but you know, everyone was so friendly – the local community all came together. For example, when we were in Kagoshima for our camp, they were so welcoming – they gave us loads of free gifts and things and yeah, just welcomed us into the community and hopefully we’ll be able to go back at some point. It really was just incredible.
Q: What – if anything – has changed for you following your performances at the World Championships?
A: Following my performances at the World Championships, nothing really has changed – the mindset is still there. You know, I’m still so hungry to move forward and get back into training. I didn’t really have much time off over summer, I had a maybe a week of no training, but I was just so hungry to get back into it! The main change going forward is the amount of support I now have access to from British Swimming as part of their World Class Performance Programme, which is only going to strengthen my set up further as they work alongside my University support team.
Q: How do you feel your time at the University of Birmingham so far – and especially your time working with the Performance Centre practitioners as part of your elite sport scholarship – has helped you progress to the level at which you are competing now?
A: Being a part of the scholarship program has been so beneficial to me. I think I’ve delved into a lot of support with, you know, physios, S&C, nutrition, psychology, performance lifestyle…everything. I think it’s really helped me move to that next step in my career where now I’m competing on an international stage and representing Great Britain. I think it’s really helped me to have that personalised program and having people around me that can support my needs, and also look into things like injury prevention and what I can do in my diet, for instance, to really boost my performance.
Q: How do you manage to balance your studies alongside training and competing at an elite standard?
A: Being a student-athlete at the University of Birmingham has been amazing for me so far and balancing my studies alongside my swimming has been really quite straightforward, if I’m honest. Everyone around me, the course Wellbeing Team as well, have been so supportive and helpful in helping me sort out extensions for if I have competitions on during deadlines and it’s really helped take that pressure off of me and keep myself organised.
Q: What do you love most about being a part of the University’s Swimming Club?
A: There are so many things I love about being a part of the University of Birmingham Swim Club. I think one of the main things is the relationship that we all have together and the fact that we turn up to training and have a good time. I don’t think there’s anything better than being able to go to training knowing that it’s going to be fun and you’re going to enjoy it. And the fact that everyone’s there to push themselves and be able to push you to that next level. But also I think the relationship that I have with Gary; how we train and how we push ourselves is really, really good, which I can honestly say has made me the swimmer that I am today.
Q: After such a huge year in terms of your progression, what will you be setting your sights on in 2024?
A: Moving forward into next season after a big year of competing, my number one goal is to make the Olympic team. I want to be a part of that team, make my first Olympic Games, and for it to only be in Paris, you know, it’s probably one of the closest we can get to our home games in the future.
And I think moving forward as well, I really want to be able to push my limits in the 100/200 and be a part of both of those at the Olympic Games. Hopefully get a medal or even, well, a gold medal in the medley relay with the other guys. To be able to break the British record in the hundred is definitely a big goal of mine too.
What They Said…
From an overall training perspective, the primary goal for Ollie and his team (including Head Coach Gary Humpage, Strength and Conditioning Coach Vasil Todorov, Performance Nutritionist Rachel Chesters, Performance Lifestyle Coach Joanna Eley and Physiotherapist Mike Gosling) was – and continues to be – to improve his overall swimming performance by seeking out small wins available in both his training and lifestyle. The practitioners work closely and collaboratively to ensure every intervention put in place is both relevant and beneficial to Ollie’s performance in the pool.
“I worked closely with Ollie both on the run up to the British Championships and the Worlds. We monitored his weight and body composition to make sure he was hitting the numbers he competes well at and ensuring he didn’t drop to race weight too quickly. Some of his nutrition support was focussed around travelling and immunity, but a lot of work was put into ensuring his race day fuelling strategy was optimal for him” – Rachel Chesters, UoB Lead Performance Nutritionist
“The aim was – and continues to be – to ultimately improve Ollie’s physical capacities to perform better in the water. We achieved this by breaking down the key components of his stroke, to identify strengths and areas for development we could work on within the gym and pool environments. This is an ongoing project – with 2023 being a successful year for Ollie, it is Paris 2024 in which we would hope to see these improvements really show!” – Vasil Todorov, UoB Strength and Conditioning Coach