Roberto’s Racing Line Blog - May 2012
Racing at the British Gas Swimming Championships in the London 2012 Aquatic Centre really was something special.
As we walked out for the final of my main event, the 400m Individual Medley – which happened to be the first final of the competition – I glanced up at the stands. They towered way into the distance, and I imagined what a sight it would be to have 17,500 people watching the race.
This time, all the available seats (2,500) were filled, and the atmosphere was already electric. The spectators were loud, and I couldn’t help wondering what a great feeling it would be in summer with the British public getting behind me as I prepared to race.
I swiftly came back down to Earth - I hadn't qualified yet and I still had a job to do.
Then, swiftly, I came back down to Earth. I hadn’t qualified yet. I still had a job to do. And a big one at that!
After a gruelling four minutes and twelve seconds I touched the wall and looked at the scoreboard. I had won the race in a personal best time and an English Record, but at that moment, what mattered most was that I had qualified for the London 2012 Olympics.
I had dreamt of that moment for years, ever since 2005, when we first found out that London would be the host city.
At that point it was a goal I thought I would never achieve, having only just won my first national medal. But as the years went by I was lucky enough to progress through the junior ranks, and then after making my first senior international in 2010, my mind was fully set on one day qualifying the Olympics.
Even though I had already qualified after my 400m Individual Medley victory, I could not switch off. I still had three events left to swim, and another huge opportunity to make the team in a second event - my favourite, the 200m Butterfly.
I thought the race was even better than my 400m IM, as I proved I was able to compete for the gold medal in more than one event. I finished in 1:56.10, just 0.16 seconds inside the qualifying time!
It just goes to show all the time I’d spent with my coach in training, practising the finer points of my race, had paid off. The start, turns and finish of a race can make such a tiny, but vital difference to your overall time. From my perspective, getting these things right was definitely worth the effort!
I won the silver medal and secured my second event at the Games, and I was overwhelmed with happiness and relief at the same time. I had achieved what myself, my coaches, my family and everyone else supporting me had been working towards for so many years.
Back To Reality
After the Olympic Trials I had a short four day break to switch off from all the emotions of the week, before heading back up to Loughborough to start the new cycle; the Olympic cycle.
My coach, Kevin Renshaw, did not allow us much time to ‘get back into the swing of things’ and we immediately started into some hard training to regain full fitness as quickly as possible.
One of the first dates on the calendar for this cycle was the National Squad Camp in London, at the Olympic Aquatic Centre, for all the qualifiers and their coaches.
This was held between 1-7 April and was a great experience. I kept having to remind myself that each of the 38 athletes present had achieved the honour of representing Great Britain at a home Olympics. Wow! The standard of swimmers, coaches and support staff on the British team is world class and I am proud to be a part of that.
It was a week of intense training, but on our afternoon off we got to enjoy other aspects of London, by visiting the West End to see The Lion King. We were really grateful for the opportunity to take our minds of training for a few hours.
We also took part in a psychology meeting where we discussed how we intended to deal with the vastly increased media presence associated with an Olympics. I found it especially useful to hear the experiences of the more senior swimmers, nineteen of whom have swum in at least one other Olympic Games.
This experience within the team is critical for the first time Olympians like myself and definitely helped to inform us of the media requirements we will have to fulfil in London, such as the possibility of several interviews in between heats and semi-finals/finals.
Certainly one of the highlights of the week was an appearance by television star David Walliams. He mingled with the athletes and coaches for a while, before donning his swimming shorts, goggles and hat, and challenging a few of us to a 50m race!
Unfortunately, even after his extensive training for his remarkable charity swims, he was unable to keep up! He finished the length in 45 seconds which is still very impressive.
Last year David swam 140 miles of the River Thames in eight days, in order to raise over £1 million for Sport Relief. Regrettably, I did not get the privilege of meeting David personally, as I was in the middle of a 9km session when he arrived! I am sure after his mammoth swims, he will empathise with me on that one!