SWIMNEWS ONLINE: September 1998 Magazine Articles

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Day One Personality: Sue Rolph


Anita Lonsbrough

What a difference four years can make. Sue Rolph was just a promising teenager on the English team at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, BC. In Kuala Lumpur she was one of the stars, with record-setting performances in the sprint freestyle.

When she got her start in the sport, she specialized in the 200 breaststroke and butterfly, and although she competed at European Juniors, she never won a medal. Today she no longer likes swimming over 200 metres unless it is in the individual medley.

Rolph comes from the north east of England where there is no 50-m pool, and has often considered moving to somewhere that has a big pool, but family ties keep her in Newcastle. She enjoys the home comforts and support that Mum, Maureen, a dinner school supervisor, Dad, Wilf, who is retired, brother Stuart, and step-brothers, Paul and Graham, provide.

Up to and including the 1996 Olympics, she always showed promise but never produced her best when it counted. However, 1997 appeared to be the turning point. At the European Championships in Sevilla, she finished fourth in the 100 freestyle, just ahead of then British record holder Karen Pickering.

Freestyle sprint queen Sue Rolph
Click image for larger photo. Photo © Marco Chiesa

She slowly climbed up the ladder. At the World Championships this January, she was a finalist in the 100 freestyle. After her return home, her coach, Ian Oliver, decided that it was time to seek help with land and weight training. Having studied the way Germany's Sandra Volker trained, they sought the advice of Carl Johnson, a former colleague of Oliver's, who helps Jonathan Edwards, the world champion and record holder for the triple jump, with his land conditioning.

Rolph's improvement was dramatic. She out-sprinted world champion Jenny Thompson (USA) during the Mare Nostrum tour in June. At the Commonwealth Trials in July, she equalled Pickering's British and Commonwealth record for the 100 freestyle, adding new British records for the 50 freestyle and 200 I.M. This was something new. In the past, when her freestyle was going well her I.M. would be slightly off, and vice versa.

With her confidence boosted, she set off for Kuala Lumpur, and upon her arrival was not afraid to predict, "I will be taking home nothing less than three gold medals." Whatever the recipe Rolph and Oliver are mixing, it is certainly paying off.

Like any 20-year-old, Rolph enjoys life away from the pool. She has a boyfriend, Craig Nicholson, a former Newcastle club swimmer now turned triathlete, and they have been going out for four years. Rolph is quick to point out there is no thought of marriage, not until after Sydney 2000 at least.

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