This week Bill Carne met up with 16 year old Lucy Harding to chat about her success as a swimmer with the Pembrokeshire Performance Squad, alongside her excellent work in teaching Street Dance to younger students at Sir Thomas Picton School in her role as silver sports ambassador... .

When the ‘Code 8’ dance group from Sir Thomas Picton School showed off their dance skills at the recent Sport Pembrokeshire Awards one of the three young coaches of the girls was Lucy Harding, who at 16 has a wide range of experience in the world of dance that includes classical, ballroom, Latin and Modern sequence dancing.

Lucy took on the coaching role alongside friends Sophie Grehan and Sophie Williams but is also well-known as one of the best swimmers in Pembrokeshire who, under the guidance of coaches Craig Nelson and Sam Jones won three gold medals in the Summer Nationals at the National Pool in Swansea.

She showed her terrific ability in the Nationals in the 200m backstroke, 200m and 400m individual medley finals before collecting a fantastic triple triumph at the top of the rostrum.

"I started swimming lessons with Ian Evans at Haverfordwest pool when I was five and by the time I was eight I was swimming all four strokes and became a member of Haverfordwest Seals.

"I've always been pretty determined," she admitted, "and on one occasion I fractured my wrist and couldn't wait to get back and be part of the squad again – and was soon back in the pool!”

But at the moment Lucy has stepped out of the Pembrokeshire Performance Squad after over ten years of swimming because of examination commitments and the need for a break from the high commitment levels needed which saw her attending the pool at Haverfordwest Leisure Centre an amazing NINE times a week.

"We had two hours of training every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings and then the same length sessions on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, plus another stint on Saturday morning followed by a strength and conditioning session at Strength Academy Wales.

"It meant getting up at 5am, spending two hours at the pool, and then dashing home to have breakfast and get ready for school - and also having a couple of sessions in the gym as a bonus!

"I've been doing that for over three years now but I still love my swimming so I'm going to carry on with Haverfordwest Seals at club level and train with the older members twice a week in the Masters Group."

That Lucy should be so involved comes as no surprise because her older sister Jordan was a Welsh squad swimmer before going off to university to train as a primary school teacher.

Her mother Nicala is a Black Belt 1st Dan in Judo and was a useful hockey player whilst dad Mark is an avid rugby fan and a great supporter of both daughters, as are grandparents, Pat and Ken Clay.

Moving on to her dancing involvement, Lucy started out before she was five at the Pembrokeshire Leisure School of Dance with Margaret Jones, now run by Rosie Picton, and enjoyed herself from the outset.

But she is self-taught in terms of street dance and started out in year seven at school with some friends after watching some older girls taking part – and now also teaches cheer-leading as another leisure activity to get girls involved in activity.

“We used to take our own music in at lunch time and made up our own routines to fit it and eventually, when Sport Pembrokeshire started a competition we had great support from Dan Bellis, our 5x60 Officer, and were thrilled when we won it and so had the chance to perform at the Sport Pembrokeshire Awards as our prize.

“Then we started to get younger girls wanting to join in and so with Dan’s help we set up lunchtime classes and it’s just gone from there, with girls from years seven to nine working really hard.  

“Last year our team won the Pembrokeshire competition which included both Sophie’s and myself.

“We now have two groups and the girls in ‘Code 8’ were offered the chance to be involved this year at the Pembrokeshire Sports Awards and all did a great job in front of a crowd of 600 people.

“Their success was down to hard work and total commitment as we upped their sessions from once a week to twice-weekly on the run in to their big day and even put in some extra sessions during the summer holidays – and their reward was a wonderful reception.

“Sophie Williams, Sophie Grehan and I have also taken street dance several times into the St Aidan’s and Prendergast Primary Schools in Haverfordwest to show pupils there the joy of what we do, visiting on Monday evenings after school – and it was so popular that we hope to return to both schools in the new year. We also hope to take part in the ‘D-Fest for a third year at the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven, which encourages a whole range of talents to be paraded”

Ask Lucy about whether Street Dance should be considered a sport and her answer would be immediately in the affirmative because she says it demands high fitness levels and is really competitive – just like ice skating or gymnastics, which also rely on judges’ opinions.

“Our training schedule demands lots of hard work and to be honest when I take part with my friends I find it every bit as challenging as a swimming training session – just in a different way.

“I know of some rugby players who have given it a try and opted out well before the end because they were shattered – and it would certainly help their general mobility, stamina and balance,” says Lucy with a chuckle!”

Lucy would also single out Dan Bellis and the parents for their support and she would love to see more county, regional and Welsh Championships – but accepts that is for the future.

But in the meanwhile Lucy Harding will continue to make an impact in what she does, and we wish her every success, because she gives total commitment, and at 16 years of age shows a maturity beyond her years, linked to a pleasant and modest outlook that makes her a credit to her family, school and county!