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An 'excited' James Wilby is feeling confident ahead of his Olympic debut

As the countdown to the rearranged Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games edges ever closer, we focus on the English athletes who will be travelling to Japan.

One of the four pre-selected athletes for the team heading to Tokyo was an ‘excited’ James Wilby, who will be making his Olympic debut this summer.

The Commonwealth champion was around nine years old when he got into competitive swimming – and the club where it all began was York City Baths.

But even Wilby admits that he didn’t know quite where it would all lead to, and the most important factor to his success he says, is enjoyment.

  • Date of Birth: 12/11/1993
  • Club: Loughborough National Centre
  • Olympic record: Making Olympic debut at Tokyo Games.

“I think learning to swim is really important and I’m glad that my mum got me into that at a pretty young age,” he said.

“The main club that I swam with when I was younger was York City Baths and basically my mum had me doing different sports when I was younger, as a lot of kids will do, and swimming was the one that kind of just stuck.

“I was good at it and the swim teacher spoke to my mum and that ended up with me being at York and things went from there.

“But certainly that’s where everything begun and it seemed like just a bit of fun but little did I know where it was leading to.”

As well as thanking his mum for getting him into the sport, Wilby also had some kind words for his coaches from the early stages of his career.

He said: “Dawn Martland and James Richards were really the ones who kind of pushed me and showed me that I could really do something with my swimming.

“I always feel scared naming people because I always think I might forget someone, but there was a lot of people there as a whole who really helped and just with day-to-day running of the club, everyone’s role was really important.”

‘It’s been a long journey’

Adam Peaty wins silver and James Wilby bronze in the 50m Breaststroke at the 2018 Commonwealth Games

Following a hat-trick of medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2019 World Championships, and another two medals at the recent European Aquatics Championships, Wilby feels ‘quite confident’ ahead of his first Olympics.

“I’m really excited – getting all the kit makes it a little bit more real and gets us ever closer to that plane journey and wearing everything full-time,” he added.

“It’s really nice kit and it’s quite exciting to think about what’s coming ahead to be taking part in, so really excited for that.

“Obviously, I’m quite confident and really looking forward to what I can do and perform out there.

“I think it’s been a long journey with the delay and the postponement but I’m quite excited and hoping to come back with some good racing, let’s put it that way.

“I’m confident for both my individual events and, hopefully, some relays as well.”

‘Enjoy the experience’

James Wilby celebrates his 200m Breaststroke victory at the 2018 Commonwealth Games with his Team England colleagues

Wilby encouraged the younger generation to focus on enjoying the sport, as well as putting in the hard work.

That’s something the 27-year-old says is still a fundamental aspect of his current training – ‘enjoying it and making the most out of it’.

“For me, one of the most important things in swimming as a whole – and it’s something that you get straight away from club swimming – is that enjoyment factor.

“If you’re not enjoying it, it makes things a lot more difficult. So having fun and being with a good group of friends at club training is the best part and has stuck with me since.

“We’re all in it together and when we’re functioning as a team, it often ends up better than if we were doing it on our own.

“At a young level, don’t take it too seriously and really have fun because it’s a long game. If you really want to progress through and get onto national and international level competition, it’s something you have to be enjoying the whole time.

“That’s the most important thing and I think doing that with a really good group of friends is really important and just enjoy the experience as you go.

“You may feel like you’ve got to commit 100 per cent all the time and obviously training hard is really important, but enjoyment is by far the most important thing.”

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