Liam Tancock is more Baywatch beefcake than a ballet dancer. He is built to break the wash at speed. The kind of man’s man you expect to see crashing through waves and hoisting damsels in distress over his boulder-like shoulders before pounding back to the beach to have prizes pinned to his heaving chest. If the 26-year-old were not the world’s fastest 50 metres backstroke sprinter, you might look for him in a rugby union scrum.
None of which has stopped the former Exeter Chiefs junior player from practising his pirouettes and pliés on his pointe shoes in front of a mirror since the dawn of spring. His reason for doing so is to understand how the parts of a chiselled 180lb, 6ft body can learn to move as one as he prepares to defend his 50 metres world title in Shanghai next month.
But Tancock is such a fish on dry land when it comes to ballet, according to Ross Davenport, a fellow member of the Great Britain and Loughborough University squads, that Ben Titley, the coach, believed he could benefit from the work of Arianna Maiorani, an Italian dance instructor…
Craig Lord, the author of this delightful article for The Times, talked to Tancock:
“We’ve been using ballet to warm up before swim sessions and it works. It really helps to loosen you up, to breathe better and it gives you a better sense of feel and reach, makes you feel ‘longer’ in the water. I can’t say everyone is amazing at it but that’s not why we’re doing it. Ben likes to think outside the box. He looks at every possible angle when it comes to us getting fit and strong. Posture and flexibility, thinking of how you’re moving your body as a whole is really important.
“It’s unusual but when Ben suggested it, everyone was really up for it. We’re a different group of people in terms of the way we think. We go rock climbing and we’ve been doing kick boxing, too. We’re open to ideas, and using different sports and activities keeps the brain fresh. Ballet is very physical and you need a lot of strength and precision.
“[Dancers] make it look effortless but it requires concentration. You become more aware of your body and what your limbs are doing, how you’re positioning your limbs, fingers and toes.”
read all via The Times
Photo: Tancock, third from left, by Stewart Grant