When the Olympic torch completes its 8,000 mile relay across the UK and comes to rest in the Olympic Stadium, all the talking will stop and all the action will begin. 16 days of competition will see hearts broken, dreams made and champions born.
Whether you represent the stars and stripes of America or the Golden Eagle of Zambia, all athletes start as equals. Only the fittest, fastest, strongest and toughest athletes will stand above anyone else on the podium.
Most of our time since the trials has been spent abroad. A three week training camp in Florida was followed by competition in the south of France and just this week I returned from 10 days of training in Tenerife. Now we start the final block of work before steadily winding down as the Olympics approaches.
From a very early age my ultimate ambition was to stand on the podium at an Olympic games. I can almost guarantee that London 2012 will be my last Olympics, so this marks the last chance to realise my dream.
Over the past decade I’m extremely proud to have represented my country at every level and on numerous occasions. I’ve won medals at European juniors, Commonwealth, European and world level. But although I’ve come extremely close on the past two occasions, I’ve never quite managed the big one: an Olympic medal.
This is my last chance to realise the dream I’ve nurtured for many years. I would gladly return all my career medals for this one moment of glory in London.
On July 31st I believe we have a real chance of doing something special in the 4x200 Freestyle Relay. Olympic gods will have to be smiling on us, but with a 17,500 partisan crowd and the backing of a great nation, anything is possible.
|Me on the right, with my mate Andy.|
I would never have reached this stage without the help of a number of great coaches going back as far as my hometown club, Belper Marlins. From there I moved on to the City of Derby before finally settling in Loughborough at the high performance centre.
We have a big team of support staff around us at Loughborough and my thanks go out to everybody I have ever worked with, whatever part you played in developing my career. Without the people I wouldn’t have made one Olympics, never mind three.
I’m also grateful to everyone who has supported me financially. Whether big or small, it’s unlikely you’ll ever quite know how much it’s helped.
My family’s belief and encouragement over the past 22 years has been incredible. From being the taxi drivers in the early parts of my career, taking me to and from training and never making it seem like a chore, to funding the majority of it along the way, their faith has been amazing. I hope to have repaid them a little over the years.
Another important person who has made many sacrifices is my fiancé, Claire. We could never just go away for a few days because I always had training and we could never do anything too extreme in case I got injured. She tolerates my bad moods after a disappointing swim and makes sure my tea is on the table when I get home from training.
Having said all of that, one of my key motivating factors is to make my nation proud. I’m proud to be British and proud to represent Team GB.
Thanks to everyone for following my journey up to now. It’ll be an honour to compete at my third Olympics and thinking of all your support should give me that extra edge.
Now it’s my turn!