As an artistic swimmer, Kate Shortman made her Olympic debut for Team GB at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games alongside her synchronised swimming partner Isabelle Thorpe in the Duet event. Last year, Kate competed at the 2022 European Championships in Rome in the Solo, Duet and Team competitions, and she also competed at the World Championships in Budapest for Team GB. Over her years as an artistic swimmer so far, Kate has competed at numerous competitions around the world, including winning her first international FINA World Series medal – picking up the Bronze in Barcelona in 2019, and she currently trains at the City of Bristol Swimming Club. We chatted to Kate about making her Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 with Isabelle, winning her first international FINA World Series medal in 2019 and her time competing as an artistic swimmer so far.
Last summer, you competed at the 2022 European Championships in Rome, can you tell us about your time competing there?
Europeans in Rome 2022 was an amazing experience, not least because the Italians were such good hosts! It was so fun to watch the swimming and diving events after we finished competing, which made it a really high-energy atmosphere. It was also a great challenge to compete, because we had worked extremely hard in the few weeks after Worlds (Budapest 2022) in order to perfect our routines and give everything to our last swims of the season.
You were competing in the Solo, Duet and Team finals at the European Championships, how different do you find performing as a solo swimmer opposed to duet and team events, and what do you enjoy most about each?
Many people think there is more pressure to swimming a solo, as all eyes are on you as the only swimmer in the pool, but personally I find it the complete opposite! When I am alone in solo, I feel more free as there is no added responsibility of sticking to the correct counts or performing a lift perfectly. As part of a team there is a duty to rigidly stick to the counts and not let your teammates down, which is the same for duet. I enjoy this aspect in duet and team a lot because it brings a strong comradery and fun team dynamic, which can be more motivating than working alone. However, in solo I feel I am truly performing and dancing in the water. I can let my body move freely to the music, which I thoroughly enjoy, especially in competition.
How was it returning to major international competitions in 2021 with the European Championships in Budapest, where you competed in the Solo Free competition, and in the Duet Free and Technical competitions with your synchronised swimming duet partner Isabelle Thorpe?
Budapest is always an amazing venue and a gorgeous city. We have competed there many times, and it is one of my absolute favourite places to compete 😃.
At the 2022 World Championships in Budapest in June, you were one of the artistic swimmers representing Great Britain, what were your finals like to compete in?
It is always such an honour to compete at a World Championship final, but since this was my third World Championships, it allowed me to really focus on performing rather than being overwhelmed with excitement at having qualified for a final. I have used my experience to be able to channel my energy into performing and focusing on climbing the rankings.
Having also competed at the World Championships in 2017 and 2019, do you have any favourite memories from these competitions over the years?
One of my favourite memories from synchro which I will never forget is qualifying for the free solo final at aged 15 in Budapest 2017. I put my all into the swim because I knew it was a tough challenge to make a final, but when I saw the score flash up on the board and I knew I had made it, my family and friends let out such a loud cheer and it was such a euphoric moment.
You made your Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, do you remember how you felt finding out you and Isabelle had been selected for Team GB and how did you prepare for the Games?
We really dreamed of going to the Olympics for years. Every training session, every early morning, every sacrifice we made to be able to be selected for Team GB really paid off and the accumulation of all the work over the years was an indescribable feeling.
What was it like competing in the Duet event with Isabelle and how is it attending major competitions together?
Iz and I have always been like sisters, so training and competing together is second nature. We both know how each other respond to nerves, pressure etc that come with competing since we have been working together for well over a decade.
How did you find the experience representing Team GB at the Olympic Games and what was it like staying in the athletes village?
The Olympic Games was honestly a dream come true. We had to wait an extra year because of COVID, and there was added tension around if the Games would even go ahead, so when we finally got there the whole experience honestly felt like a dream. It was definitely the best sporting experience of my life, which surprised me because when you dream about something for so many years, it can be a little underwhelming when the actual event comes around, but for me the Games surpassed all my expectations and more!
In 2019, you won your first individual FINA World Series medal when you came away with Bronze in Barcelona, how was this?
It was amazing to win a Bronze medal at a World Series, and I hope it really encouraged the younger swimmers from GB to remember to always keep trying and never give up, because good things come to those who work for it!
Where does your love of artistic swimming come from and how did you get into it?
I got into artistic swimming because I was always hanging around at the pool with my family, as everyone in my family is involved in aquatic sports (swimming, water polo and synchro). My mum did artistic swimming and so did my sister, so it was a natural progression for me after I started swimming at aged five that I wanted to be part of the synchro group and swim with the music in pattern! For me, it was a lot more engaging than swimming up and down, although I do still love speed swimming and racing (probably because I am very competitive 😉).
What is a typical training day for you at the City of Bristol Swimming Club?
A typical week consists of 8am to 5/6:30pm Monday to Saturday. We usually have Sundays off and occasionally have to miss a few hours of training to attend university.
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