Q&A with former world champion James Gibson
5th November 2010
James Gibson announced his retirement from competitive swimming on Wednesday after a long-term back injury.
Swimming.org caught up with the former world and Commonwealth champion to chat about the ups and downs of his career.
Q: Hi James. You've won plenty of medals during your career - which do you rank as your biggest achievement?
A: That would be winning the World Championships in Barcelona in 2003 and becoming the first Brit in 28 years to do so. But it's hard to separate the rest - my other career highs were becoming Commonwealth champion, European champion and World Universities champion.
Q: How about the most memorable moment in the pool?
A: Obviously becoming world champion was a huge moment for me but I'd say winning gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester was probably the most memorable, especially as my family were in the crowd.
Standing on the podium watching the St George's Cross being raised to the sound of nearly 5,000 people singing Land of Hope and Glory was probably the most emotional moment of my career as well.
It was an incredible night - I still get tears in my eyes when I watch it back.
I have to say another truly memorable moment for me was receiving my MBE from Her Majesty the Queen in 2004. It was amazing to spend a few moments in her company and I was so nervous that she had to correct me on a few things!
Q: What''s next for you? Are you still in swimming in any capacity?
A: Yep, I'm looking forward to beginning the next chapter of my swimming career. I have just accepted a job here at the CN Marseille, French Swimming High Performance Centre as a sprint coach. I’ll be coaching some of the best European swimmers outside of the UK so i’m really excited.
I have just been invited out to the European Short Course Championships later this year as part of the Dutch coaching team so that will be exciting as well.
Working on the continent means I get to work with swimmers from all over Europe and sometimes even further afield so it is a fantastic opportunity and I definitely don’t regret my move over the channel.
Q: What will you miss the most about competitive swimming?
A: Well I won’t get the chance to miss the early mornings and the long hours as I will still be doing those as a coach!
I will miss competing though - walking out in my GB tracksuit and taking my place at the blocks.
With my new job though I will still be involved in the preparation and excitement of competitions so hopefully I will still get that adrenalin rush.
I will miss competing in part of the relay team as well. There is always such good camaraderie on a relay team - one of my favourite races was in the Olympic 4x100m medley final in Athens, when I competed with Gregor Tait, James Hickman and Matthew Kidd.
Q: What advice do you have for young swimmers who are just starting their careers or who aspire to make swimming their career?
A: Definitely to make sure they have fun & enjoy it. The journey over the past 12 years and my memories is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Being an elite swimmer has given me so many opportunities. I have been to some great places with great cultures and met some amazing people. I don’t know what other careers can offer that.
Q: Do you have any regrets with the choices you made during your career?
A: Like the cliché, there are things I might have done differently if I knew then what I know now and obviously I am disappointed that I won’t get the chance to compete for an Olympic medal at the home Games in 2012. But hopefully I will be there in a coaching capacity!
That said I don’t have many regrets and I have had a great career which I am very proud of. I’ve had fantastic support from my sponsors, Loughborough University, the club here in Marseille, my coach Romain Barnier, my family and of course my wife Liz.
I’m touched by the people who have helped me along the way since my first competition, it’s been an amazing journey and the unequivocal support I have received from everyone involved in British Swimming over the past 12 years has been the determining factor in my success.