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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

'I was definitely quite nervous and slightly intimidated': JESS Dubai pupil Lewis Burras on facing the best of Britain at Swimming Championships

Burras returned from Edinburgh with two gold medals and one silver

Lewis Burras, a sixth-form pupil at JESS School Dubai, shows off his medals from the recently concluded British Swimming Championships. Victor Besa / The National
Lewis Burras, a sixth-form pupil at JESS School Dubai, shows off his medals from the recently concluded British Swimming Championships. Victor Besa / The National

Keeping calm under pressure is the mark of any good athlete. Doing so when up against a quality field full of senior swimmers that includes an Olympic silver medalist must be double daunting.

Lewis Burras is in his final year as a junior. The 18-year-old sixth-form pupil at Jumeirah English Speaking School Dubai recently took part in the British Swimming Championships held in Edinburgh to keep his name in the thoughts of selectors who will choose the squad to travel to Helsinki, Finland this summer for the European Junior Championships.

Burras had already won junior gold in the 50m butterfly and silver in the senior men's 50m freestyle when he lined up against a field including Scotland's own Duncan Scott, a winner of two silver medals as part of the Great Britain team at the Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro two years ago.

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Read more:

Dubai pupil beats Olympic medallist to take 100m freestyle gold at British Championships

Interview: Lewis Burras on balancing school life with fledgling swimming career

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“I was definitely quite nervous and slightly intimidated by the rest of the field, because they were all of such high quality," Burras told The National on Wednesday.

"But during the warm-up my confidence grew. I remember waiting to be called out, I had my music playing, and as I walked out it was dark then I suddenly had this spotlight shine on me and I think that’s when my nerves kind of settled down and I got in the zone and told myself ‘I’ve trained really hard for this and it’s showtime now’.”

He certainly did that. Burras, finished in a personal best time of 49.89 seconds - the only swimmer to go under 50 seconds - well within the qualification time for July’s European Championships. Despite that, Burras, who is 190-centimetres tall and weighs 80-kilograms, faces an anxious wait to see if he has made the Great Britain squad when it is announced on Friday.

So what was it like being chased down the home stretch by an Olympic silver medalist and the home favourite, as it were, with Scott born just down the road in Glasgow?

"I remember all I could see was this white cap [Scott] slowly, well, quite quickly actually, moving up on me," Burras said. "But I managed to keep myself composed and stick to my stroke. My coach told me before the race that if I get my head down the last seven metres it doesn’t matter who they are I’ll be able to out touch them. Luckily I listened to him and got my hand on the wall first.”

The coach in question, Ash Morris of Hamilton Aquatics, said Burras had exceeded expectations, but could have done even better had it not been for the brutal weather that brought much of Scotland to a standstill last week.

"We were optimistic how Lewis would perform. He swam how we thought he would - maybe he could have gone even a little bit faster if it weren't for walking for 30 minutes in 10 inches of snow that morning," Morris said.

"But he will take confidence from the victory knowing that he can now beat some senior swimmers."