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World Champs review: Ross Davenport blog

23 August 2011

Four-time Commonwealth medallist Ross Davenport reviews his 2011 World Championship campaign and looks forward to his Olympic season.

Now the countdown is really on!  It’s under a year until the London Olympic Games, which means this time next year we’ll know who the winners and losers are, who are our new national heroes and who has fallen heart-breakingly short.

We’ll also be addressing the biggest party hangover the UK’s had in a generation, and begin to start wondering: ‘whatever do we do now?’!

But before we look too far into the future, it’s time to reflect. I’ve just returned home from the FINA World Championships in Shanghai, China, with the rest of British Gas GBR Swimming Team.

Training camp

Our latest trip started around four weeks ago. After a short flight to Amsterdam, where the team assembled, we endured a 10 hour flight to Osaka, Japan. We went there to acclimatise to similar conditions, culture, food and time-zone as China, and to bond as a team.

Fortunately the Typhoon slowed down and we managed to get out before it hit Osaka. Which was a relief because nobody fancied swimming across to China

Regardless of how much of a frequent flyer you are, long haul flights are always punishing.  I need my rest, so missing out on a night’s sleep definitely takes its toll! Firstly, I managed to get over the jetlag and take some down-time.

In the lead-up to a competition we decrease the volume and intensity of training.  From four weeks until racing it gets gradually less intense until we’re doing around 45 minutes of low intensity swimming a day, leading right up to the competition.

Those three to four weeks are all about resting up and fine-tuning the tiny aspects of your skills and technique.  All the hard work is done in the months beforehand so the worst thing a swimmer can do in the days before a major competition is to work too hard.  The more a swimmer rests, the sharper they become – providing they have put in the hard graft over the previous months.

I was in Japan for about eight days and the country was great.  Training was getting better the more I rested and I felt sharper with each day that passed.  This meant I was confident of being able to put in a strong performance in Shanghai.

In the days before our departure from Japan, we learnt of a Typhoon heading straight to Osaka! With winds approaching 140mph heading straight for us, we were obviously concerned the airport would close and we wouldn’t make it to Shanghai in time.

Fortunately the Typhoon slowed down and we managed to get out before it hit Osaka. Which was a relief because nobody fancied swimming across to China.

With four days until the competition began, we arrived safely into Shanghai and familiarised with our new surroundings. About 30 minutes bus drive away from the hotel was Shanghai Oriental Sports Center: the venue.

The main event

Although the pool is temporary and erected just for the World Championships, it’s situated in a brand new £300 million indoor facility that will host basketball, ice hockey and concerts after the pool itself is removed. It’s a brilliant arena.

Standing behind the blocks, I was trembling with nerves yet reassured that I’d put 100% effort and commitment into training over the past six months

After seeing it for the first time I felt a wave of nerves and excitement, and couldn’t wait to start racing.

My preferred event - the 200m Freestyle - was on the second day of racing. It’s a strong event the world over, with the likes of Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and next year Ian Thorpe, all competing. Over 20 Olympic golds between them mean it’s a pretty exciting and massively competitive race.

I went into the competition ranked 20th in the world and really wanted to move up, hopefully making the top 16 and winning a place in the semi-final. For this to happen I had to swim a best time in the morning heats. That’s despite morning times being notoriously slower than evening times, because the body isn’t as alert. 

I was drawn in Heat 9 of 9, in Lane 1. The fastest swimmers are always drawn in the middle lanes, with the slower swimmers on the outside.

Judging by the times being posted in the heat beforehand, I knew that for me to make the semi-final this would have to be a lifetime best.  And even then it would be touch and go.

Standing behind the blocks, I was trembling with nerves yet reassured that I’d put 100% effort and commitment into training over the past six months. It was time to race.

The race was a complete blur. Being out in Lane 1 you can’t see across the pool and can only really see Lanes 2 and 3.  All the same I knew I was doing well because I could tell I was in front of the two swimmers next to me.

I touched the wall to see I’d finished third in my heat with a lifetime best performance and knew straight away that I’d achieved my goal of making the semi-final. I’d actually qualified eighth fastest into the semi-final, which was just seven hours away.

Between the heats and semi-final you have to recover as fast as possible. So after swimming down – slow, steady swimming to remove all lactate from the muscles – and a massage, I headed back to the hotel for some food and a sleep.

After a few hours’ sleep it was back to the pool for the semi. I was so happy with my performance in the heat that anything else which came my way was a bonus.

The race went well for me and I was really pleased with the tenth-place finish.  In fact I only missed out on the final by 0.37sec.

Relay time

After the 200m free I had three days’ recovery before the 4x200 metres freestyle relay.  I love being part of the relay team.  It’s such an honour to be able to race for your country, but also for your teammates and friends. Four guys giving 100% and willing each other on generates a great feeling.

I’d always prefer success in the relay over success in the individual events. Four guys giving 100% and willing each other on generates a great feeling.

I’d always prefer success in the relay over success in the individual events. It means you can share your success and emotions with three other friends.

We knew it would be hard to make the final but we managed to do it, before finishing sixth in the final itself.  As a relay team we know we can improve, so this is a great starting point for next year.

With the right support, I feel the relay team has a strong chance of Olympic success next year.  I’ll be doing everything in my power to be part of that team, and everything possible to make it a success.

I've now had a couple of weeks' break and I'm back in training again. It's the final road to qualification for the greatest show the UK will ever see: London 2012! For now, I’m looking no further ahead than that.

Thanks for all your continued support, here, on Twitter, Facebook, and even in person!  It's always really appreciated.

Ross is supported by TBS Enterprise Mobility and Composed Communication - view his blogspot here.

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