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Crichton an inspiration to winner Pascoe

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 15/09/2012
Roly Crichton and Sophie Pascoe
Getty Images
TIGHT TEAM: Coach Roly Crichton and Sophie Pascoe before the Women's 100m breaststroke SB9 heat on day 10 of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

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Crichton and Pascoe - it sounds like an respectable accountants' firm or a television detective show, but it's shaping as Canterbury sport's most successful partnership outside Hansen and McCaw.

Sophie Pascoe arrived home on Thursday with six Paralympic medals - three gold and three silver - to a spirited welcome and a huge ovation from her QE 2 swimming squad training partners, family and friends.

Coach Roly Crichton was not on the same plane - he is not due to return until later this month, but everyone - including Pascoe herself - readily admits she could not have achieved her success without her longtime mentor.

"He's been there since day one, I've been with him 11 years, in a coach-athlete relationship," 19-year-old Pascoe said. "That's a long time - it's almost like a married couple.

"We work so tremendously well together and we have that emotional connection that no-one else can really understand.

"He knows when game face is on and he can pick up my senses of everything; that's how well we work together."

Crichton's own pedigree as a Paralympian pioneer and former swimming world champion have been a huge inspiration to his young charge.

"He's been there, he's done that, he knows what it takes to be a world champion. That really reflects on my head space in wanting to be a world champion, as well."

So is Crichton a tough taskmaster?

"Definitely, it's Roly we're talking about. I wouldn't be able to work if he wasn't tough. I need that sort of coaching to be able to get me through."

Crichton and John Hellemans, a Christchurch-based doctor and triathlon coach, co-ordinated Pascoe's altitude training programme between the Beijing and London Paralympics which helped her build the endurance to succeed in six events in London.

"I was in Flagstaff, Arizona for a month prior to the Games and obviously it did the trick. I don't know much about altitude, I just get told to do it, so I do it and obviously it works."

Paralympics New Zealand board member Ben Lucas admires the symbiotic relationship between Pascoe and Crichton.

"Roly's been absolutely crucial [to Pascoe's success]. Sophie has said to me that Roly is her inspiration and she would never have entertained the thought of getting another coach.

"Hat's off to Roly, he's brought her through from an 8- or 9-year-old."

Lucas says Crichton can be "a very hard man".

"That's how he gets the best out of his athletes.

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"He's also very well regarded around New Zealand and internationally as a triathlon coach."

Crichton has been appointed head coach at Timaru's new Caroline Bay swimming pool complex after 11 years at the QE 2 swim school.

But he is likely to continue to shape and mould Pascoe's Paralympic career.

Former Commonwealth Games swimming champion Anna Simcic-Forrest has watched "all the hard work" Pascoe and Crichton "have done together" at close quarters.

"They are very much a team," said Simcic-Forrest, who serves as Pascoe's mentor but reckons she does not have to do much because the former Lincoln High School teenager is so self-motivated.

Simcic-Forrest has admired the way Crichton has helped shape Pascoe's development.

Pascoe and Crichton have "complete faith" in one another, Simcic-Forrest says, and she believes their partnership can only get better.

- Canterbury

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