online booking

Queen of the pool

Everyone has heard of Adam Peaty. But how many can tell you the name of the woman behind his success.

Mel Marshall is her name. Olympian and multiple times international medallist turned UK Coach of the Year, Marshall has guided Peaty from young amateur swimmer to Olympic champion. And what’s more she’s Loughborough through and through.

Marshall’s love affair with Loughborough started back in the year 2000, when she arrived as an 18 year old student to study Applied Sport Science.

That was before the 50m pool was built, so we were training in a 25 yard pool! 

I was lucky enough to be able to stretch my degree over eight years, which allowed me to focus on my swimming, where I went to two Olympic Games and won 20 international medals.

Whilst Marshall has transitioned from student, to international swimmer, to world class coach, the Loughborough swimming programme has also been on its own journey, from start-up to world class. But what makes it stand out?

One of the things that makes Loughborough the very, very best is its holistic approach to athletes. It’s not just about the athlete’s performance but about them as people.

At the heart of everything is a passion for making athletes and sport better and that’s a message that you feel and experience as soon as you walk through the door at Loughborough. That’s something that’s unique and very inspirational.

Having a degree from Loughborough University and 12 years of international performance based experience you could say Marshall was always destined to be coach. But that didn’t mean it was handed to her on a plate.

I started out as a coach at Derby, where I had next to nothing. But what I did have was the non-technical skills that Loughborough had taught me; how to be resilient, how to make relationships and how to network with people. That stood me in good stead to build a similar philosophy with a limited environment.

I was there for eight years and adopted an ‘anything is possible’ attitude, which was exactly right as a man called Adam Peaty walked through my door. Eight years later he’s the Olympic champion and I’m back at Loughborough University as the Head Coach of the National Centre.

Pressed on her first impressions of Peaty, a question she must be sick of answering, Marshall’s answer was simple.

The first time I saw him breaststroke I knew there was something special.

Discussing her impact, something her modesty doesn’t allow her to dwell on for too long, Marshall said:

Someone said to me the other day, and I don’t know whether it’s true or not, that I was the first female British coach across any sport to produce an Olympic gold medallist. If that’s true that’s quite exciting!

With Rio 2016 already becoming a distant memory, Marshall, Peaty and everyone involved with swimming at Loughborough have to move forward with a new set of goals. But what does success look like for Marshall, and for the National Centre she is now tasked with leading?

For me success over the next four years is a move forward from where we are. Loughborough has got to the top of the mountain but now it’s about how we fly off and achieve more.

A longer version of this story is available through Loughborough University’s new digital magazine, VOLUME