A SWIMMER who began his career pounding the pool at Duns under the watchful eye of first coach Joyce Waddell, is enjoying the opportunity of a lifetime across the pond.
Former Duns Swimming Club member and Chirnside Primary School pupil Dan Wallace is now based in America, after he was given a scholarship to study there 18 months ago.
Wallace’s swimming exploits resulted in him winning a swimming scholarship to the University of Florida, where, now in his second year, he is trained by the world’s best coaches in first class training facilities.
In Gainesville, Wallace rubs shoulders with Olympic gold medallists, receiving extensive swimming training from 2012 US Olympic coach Gregg Troy, while competing for the world-famous Florida Gators.
Double Olympic gold medal winner Ryan Lochte is just one of the elite swimmers Wallace trains alongside.
And with his sights firmly set on Glasgow 2014, Wallace could follow in the footsteps of Berwickshire’s Euan Dale, a Commonwealth silver medallist in the pool at Melbourne.
“He would like to be up there with the best in 2014 and will give it his best shot to make the Commonwealth Games, and swim for Scotland,” Wallace’s mum Tanya said.
The 19-year-old is targeting the World Championships, which take place in Barcelona this summer, and is currently in hard training ahead of two prestigious state-side competitions; the South East Conference (SEC) meet; and the elite National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) competition.
Since returning to America following a brief visit home to Scotland at Christmas, Wallace has undergone intense training with the US Army at Cocoa beach, along with 2012 Gold medallists Ryan Lochte and Connor Dwyer.
“The army certainly put them through their paces, and it’s great for Dan to actually get to train with the likes of Ryan Lochte - what better training partner can you have than the fastest man in the world at 400 IM?” Tanya said.
Having not previously returned home in almost a year, Wallace made a splash at the Scottish National Short Course Championships last month, when he won six medals in six finals. Despite suffering from jet lag, he claimed a haul of four gold and two silver medals at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh.
Tanya said: “I was very surprised at the huge change in how Dan now swims - he seemed to have an incredible amount of strength in all the different strokes now and was quite a different swimmer than when he left for America 12 months previously.”
Taking to the water on day one of the competition, Wallace won a gold in the 400m freestyle - an event he does not normally swim - with a time of 3m47.08s. Five minutes later he won silver in the 100m individual medley in 55.13s.
There was no let-up on his return to the pool the following day, starting with the 200m IM where a gold in a time of 1m58.16s was followed by a silver in the 200m butterfly, breaking the two-minute barrier again in 1m59.94s.
Both silver medals resulted in agonising finishes, Wallace losing out in each by tenths of a second.
There would be no second-place finishes on the final day, however as Wallace, swimming unattached, swept up two gold medals, the first in the 400m IM with a time of 4m10.35s, a full two seconds ahead of his competitors, followed by the 200m freestyle with a time of 1m47.42s.
“The American training is clearly paying off,” Tanya said. “All the things we have sacrificed as a family for Dan to be able to live his dream feel so worthwhile after watching him at the Scottish.
“The Florida Gators are ranked in the top seven in the whole of the States, and have the most dedicated, and knowledgeable coaches in the world, and Florida is a top university academically too.”
Wallace will finish his second year at Florida University at the end of April, and is planning to come home and train with his second club in Edinburgh, Warrender Baths club.
He will compete in Leeds in June in a trial event ahead of this summer’s World Championships, which Tanya says her son would love to compete in.