Aaron Rickhuss - Athlete for the Future
A young swimmer from the South Hams is pushing himself to make the NEXT Olympics in 2016 – and the businesses of the area are helping him out.
Nineteen-year-old Aaron Rickhuss is a determined young man – he wants to race at the Olympics and he is going the right way about it.
“I train for twenty hours a week,” he tells me. “I’m awake at 4.50am every morning, training in the pool for two hours from 5.30am, then off to the gym, then home for a sleep before training in the pool for another two hours in the afternoon. I train at least 20 hours per week. I’m not sure my friends really understand what I have to do every day to keep improving.”
Aaron has been excelling at swimming since he was 12 – a very sad moment in the young man’s life: his father, Mark (who was himself a national swimming champion and record-breaking English Channel swimmer) passed away.
“Dad taught me how to swim,” he said. “I used to do triathlons but when he died I started to concentrate on swimming. It became a motivation – I wanted to use his death to create something positive. It was obviously a tough time but it helps to give me the final kick to do what I have to do.”
It sounds like the training is so tough you have to be motivated.
“You have to enjoy training or you’d just not be an athlete – it’s very tough, more like a living hell – but I really do. Slogging up and down is not some people’s idea of fun, but I love it!
“However, what I enjoy most is the racing – getting in the pool, trying to beat my opponent and breaking my own personal bests. It’s like an exam for your favourite subject when you have done loads of preparation and get the chance to do your best under pressure – I love that and always will.”
Aaron used to be a member of Kingsbridge Kingfishers and after doing well in competitions for them won a swimming scholarship to Plymouth College/Plymouth Leander to develop his skills.
Since then he has begun to truly excel.
Aaron is a multiple medal winning member of the British Youth Swimming team. A few of his achievements include gaining National and British Championship qualification times early in the 2011 season in backstroke and freestyle, winning gold in 50m and 100m freestyle at the 2011 County Championships, at which he also won the Daily Telegraph Devon County ASA Shield and the ‘Best Male Swimmer’ of the Championships. During last season he reached the No. 1 position for 100 freestyle on the National Youth Rankings, competed at the British Championships in Manchester and became the top swimmer on the National and European Youth Rankings for 50m freestyle. He was also a member of the gold-medal winning 4x100m freestyle relay team at the 2011 National Youth Championships.
Despite this success he has his sights set firmly on the senior competition and looks forward to the chance to make his mark at international events against the world’s very best.
He got the chance to race in the British trials at the Olympics pool earlier this year – and although he didn’t qualify, he loved the experience.
“I had an outside chance of making the senior level, but it wasn’t my day,” he said. “Sometimes you go out and it doesn’t go your way. But how many people have got to swim in the Olympic Pool before the big event? It was a very special day and I loved every minute of it and learned a lot. I’m now getting the chance to race against people who a few years ago were my inspiration to do well – they are now my peers.
“To compete against them you have to believe you can beat them and stop putting them on a pedestal.
“If you look at the very successful swimmers in the world they are in their mid 20s, simply because of their physical development and the strength they have. I can now look at them and see what I have to do. There is a massive jump between the youth competitions and the senior ones, so I have to keep my head down and just keep training and working hard.”
This does not come cheap: Aaron’s training and competing schedule costs him £16,000 a year.
Aaron said that without the support of his mother, grandmother and some select businesses - including Dartmouth’s own WHK Services - he would have real trouble keeping up his training.
“WHK Services in Dartmouth and Toadhall Cottages in Kingsbridge have helped me immensely – they have made a massive difference to me and allowed me to train and compete. The financial aspect of sport now is massive. Quite apart from my coach’s fees, there are travel and overnight costs when I go to competitions – some are nine days and nights, which can really add up!
“I couldn’t of course be doing what I’m doing without the financial and emotional support of my mum, Jo, and, grandmother, Jan Thomas-Gourd. It takes so much to be a full-time athlete and without their support it just wouldn’t be possible to do it.”
First Published July 2012 By The Dart