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Gibson using London 2012 as motivation to keep him going

13th January 2010

James Gibson, the former world, Commonwealth and European champion, has revealed how the chance of competing at the London 2012 Olympic Games is the motivation for his recovery from a serious back operation.

Gibson, who finished sixth in the 100 metres breaststroke final at the Athens 2004 Olympics, suffered a disc hernia in the early part of 2009 which left him in excruciating pain and even threatened to end his career.

The condition became so bad that the 29-year-old from Essex could sometimes not even get out of bed and an MRI scan in France discovered that he required urgent surgery.

It was on October 31 2009 - the day that marked 1,000 days to go until the start of London 2012 - that it was confirmed that Gibson required an immediate operation.

At St John’s Hospital in London, surgeons performed a spinal discectomy, cutting away at the disc to relieve pressure, and following the success of the operation, Gibson hopes that competing at London 2012 will make the long recovery worthwhile.

He said: "London 2012 is a carrot to me and has given me a lot of motivation.

"For anyone who has had an operation, it can be quite scary especially if it’s on their back.

"My body is the tool of my trade and my income so from that point of view it has been one of the most concerning moments of my life.

"But I was in so much pain and, following the operation, it felt much better from the first day."

Gibson though, who turns 30 next month, is aware that he faces a long spell on the sidelines. Although the best recovery for his injury is swimming, he cannot swim his specialist stroke of breaststroke due the pressure it put on the back.

Nor can he perform anywhere near the level of intensity in training that he is used to.

Currently Gibson is swimming a total of two kilometres per week while undergoing physiotherapy at the British Olympic Medical Institute at Bisham Abbey.
He said: "Doctors say if you have a nerve pressing on your body for 10 seconds, it can take 10 days to make a full recovery.

"My nerve was pressed for six to seven weeks so it could take three to four months before I can even hope to get back into proper training."

The 6ft 3in Gibson still hopes to compete in August's Commonwealth Games trials, an event where he struck gold in the 50m breaststroke at Manchester in 2002, but his ultimate target remains 2012 and he will not do anything to jeopardise competing there.

He said: "The most important thing is that I get focused and take my time.

"I don’t want to rush my rehabilitation and compromise my chances for 2012.

"I would forfeit other smaller competitions for that."

Gibson became the first Briton to win a world title in 28 years when he triumphed in the 50m breaststroke at the 2003 Barcelona World Championships and, although he still holds the British record over that distance, he is hoping to compete in the 100m breaststroke event at 2012 because he claims he has lost some of his natural speed as he has gotten older.

He won a bronze medal in the 100m breaststroke at the World Championships in Barcelona and claimed the gold medal at the event in the European Short Course Championships in Dublin in 2003.

Gibson said: "When you are injured, especially if it is a serious injury, you go through lots of emotions.

"You question whether it is worthwhile compromising your health, you can think of retirement but it can also make you more determined."

Gibson still faces problems in his rehabilitation and suffered a setback in his recovery when he tried to pick the television remote control off his floor but with the swimming event in Stratford just 30 minutes away from his home in Witham in Essex, he will do everything he can to compete in front of his home fans in 2012 and is relishing the challenge.

He said: "I hope I can come back stronger."

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