Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Swimming: Dawn's Task Is to Make Big Splash and Better Beijing Display

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Swimming: Dawn's Task Is to Make Big Splash and Better Beijing Display

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE BROWN

WHEN she wasn't mingling with royalty and Rafael Nadal, the biggest challenge Dawn Peart faced at last year's Olympics was trying to unlock the mysteries of Chinese street signs.

Her next test is even bigger: top Beijing. Seconded from her role as City of Newcastle's swimming development officer to manage Team GB's aquatics squad at last August's Games, Gateshead-born Peart oversaw a best-ever pool (and outdoor) performance of two gold medals, two silver and two bronze.

Recently appointed the Great Britain senior swimming team's first full-time manager, she starts her new role on Monday at the British Championships in Sheffield . . .

But with one eye already trained on London 2012, and improving Britain's Olympic record.

At least the road signs should be easier.

"Language was a problem, it's the other side of the world, a different culture," she said. "The signposts were impossible to understand - it's not like Europe where with French or German you've got a clue. So finding your way around the underground system or buying tickets was difficult.

"You try sign language but four fingers of one hand doesn't mean four, you have to use two from each hand.

Little things like that you didn't know to begin with."

Not that it kept Peart's team from unprecedented medal success, nor Peart from enjoying one or two highlights away from the pool.

"You're in the Olympic village dining room that sits 10,000 people and Rafael Nadal walks in and sits down nearby," Peart said.

"You think 'I've seen him on the telly!'.

It can be quite distracting!

"Meeting Princess Anne was another highlight.

She came down to the rowing venue, which was also being used for the open water events, and I had to meet her because there was nobody there from the British Olympic Association to meet her.

"Then when we all went to Buckingham Palace on our return to be introduced to the Queen, Princess Anne came over and said 'Hello Dawn, how are you?'.

I thought 'Wow, she remembered who I was!'.

That was a personal highlight."

HRH wasn't the only one impressed.

So successful had the team been that, backed by increased funding, British Swimming is seeking to sustain and improve on its achievements by "professionalising" its operation - starting with Peart's full-time position. …

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