COLCHESTER’S teenage swimming prodigy Laura Stephens has moved to Plymouth to train alongside some of the sport’s superstars.
The 14-year-old will share the pool with the likes of Olympic 100m breaststroke champion Ruta Meilutyte after taking up a scholarship at Plymouth College.
The teenager – who is regarded as one of Great Britain’s finest young swim prospects – will work under world-class coach Jon Rudd as she tries to emulate the success of the likes of Meilutyte on the global stage.
Rudd, who will coach the England team at this year’s Commonwealth Games, said Stephens should be praised for taking the bold step.
“We have to give Laura a lot of credit because she’s already stepped out of her comfort zone to come away from home to move to Plymouth,” he said.
“She comes to us with good credentials and a very positive swimming history.
“I’d like to congratulate Colchester Swimming Club and their coaches for getting her to the level that she’s at.
“Our job now is to try to extend that further and allow her to see what her potential is.”
The Wix teenager - who became Colchester SC’s first-ever national champion in 2012 - competed for Team GB at last year’s European Youth Olympics and also rubbed shoulders with some of Great Britain’s leading swimmers at the last Olympic Trials.
Now one of her main targets will be to impress at the Commonwealth Games trials, which take place in Glasgow in April.
“The primary goal at the moment is for Laura to swim as well as she can at the Commonwealth Games trials,” added Rudd, who is director of swimming at Plymouth College.
“It’ll be a case of her trying to get back into the Great Britain team again this year, as they double up as European Junior Championship trials.
“The other main target for her are the British Championships, in July.
“The rest of this year will be about her getting used to the system and how to do things.”
“It’s important she learns how to be independent and she has to become self reliant as much as possible.
“You don’t wipe their noses for them and it’s a case of making sure that we strike the right balance so that she’s independent but also has the right guidance.”