The first swimming gala of the year saw ICSWP go to Cambridge for their annual team gala. Sporting their finest navy and red new kit, a team of 18 Imperial swimmers arrived ready to impress, competed like champions, and left with their heads held high.

A brand new initiative saw 16 members of the elite Seal Squad ill-advisedly share a bus with UCL. Others unfortunately, but admirably, got the train. After a somewhat concerning journey, involving a worm-on-a-string and no fewer than three breakdown scares from the old and tired bus (which eventually led to us being dropped off on the wrong side of the city), like a flock of birds migrating to their nesting grounds, the team were drawn to the pool like dodgy Blackpool souvenirs to a fridge.

Officially qualified Timekeeper Ross Hunter bravely volunteered to lead our administrative and record-keeping duties – a challenge made somewhat trickier by the lack of a team stopwatch. Nonetheless, if ICSWP is known for anything, it’s success in the face of adversity; a working stopwatch was sourced, as was a pen, and Ross was able to competently fulfil his destiny (until it was his turn to get in the pool). With warm up done, the team ready and a timekeeper with stopwatch in hand, it was time for action.

Well known for their cheerleading skills, Imperial set off a new standard this year with the raucous team cheering the team’s every move at the end of the lane, and each individual race seemed the climax of the event. Every time, the excitement would appear to bubble on at every photo finish, before being forced to reset on the official’s seemingly impossible demand for silence at the start. This definitely set off the gala to a good start, and clearly paid off when in the third race, Men’s 100m Backstroke, we accomplished our first win through Bryce Puszet. This was quickly followed by back to back wins by Captain Clara Bachorz and Rhys Rickard-Frost, and in no time Imperial had already won three out of the first six races! Electrified by the team cheering and carried away by impressive victories, the swimmers gave it all they had. This is the kind of stuff you dream of as a kid when sleeping after training; the pinnacle of anyone’s career, or at least University swimming. The perfect recipe for lactic acid, illness, and hopefully, success. And success there was! Quick-fire relays in every stroke were next up on the list.

Some expert takeovers, speedy swims including or not rubber ducks, and slippery swimwear (@Richard Prior) saw Imperial take victories in two of the races, beating UCL in the process. Final finishing position for ICSWP was 4th; a great achievement for a new team with early-season fitness. A good swim meet calls for pints – got to get those calories back! ICSWP therefore takes on the second challenge of the night: finding the local Spoons. Leaving the swimming pool somewhat reluctantly, the team is soon faced with another challenge. While Ross did a great job as official qualified timekeeper, his method of convincing the spoons bouncers he was in fact 19 and had just forgotten his ID was clearly off. Settling in for the backup plan did include some whining from senior members of the team (I’m looking at you David), but the meal ended up being a complete success as the team filled their bellies with tasty pizza from Zizzi restaurant.

Those leaving already loaded onto the train (good try Clara & Clemency), it was time for a night out back in the local Spoons. Pints were drunk, VK’s were downed, and the dancefloor gave birth to very promising new talents just a few weeks away from BUCS. The unexpected news of having to push back the leaving time by an hour due to our dearest London colleagues forgetting about the time change did not affect the mood in the slightest. It did however lead to adverse consequences such as ‘extra dancing’ and ‘a dodgy kebab’, as well as a very sleepy bus ride home.

Arriving back to London at 4am, everyone was ready for bed. A long tube ride home for the bravest of the team, or else an Uber, followed by cup of milk, and a night cuddled up in bed was necessary to recover from a very exciting day. The night was spent dreaming of the next swimming gala ICSWP will go to – Sheffield here we come! Great job to everyone who swam, amazing result for our first gala, we can’t wait for the next one!!

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