Jones Looks Forward to Olympic Trials
Next week sees the culmination of four years of hard work and personal sacrifice as Swindon Dolphin swimmer Chris Jones competes at the 2008 British Swimming Championships, aiming not only for success, but for a place in the British Olympic Swimming Team. Jones, the Scottish captain, has clocked up approaching 3,500 hours in the pool and many more hours in the gym since the last Olympic trials, but his fate now lies in well under three minutes of swimming, and in achieving an improvement of less than one second.
It has been a memorable 12 months for Jones. Amongst his most impressive achievements are a gold medal in the 100m breaststroke and a silver in the 50m breaststroke at the 2007 British Championships last March. He subsequently became the 50m breaststroke National Champion in August, recording a Scottish record on his way to gold. Added to this Jones set county records in 33m, 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke events during the 2006/2007 season and claimed short & long course, 200m breaststroke world records in the 25-29 years age group at major Masters’ competitions.
“My main focus approaching these trials is to be stronger and lighter than I have ever been before. I have been using a weight loss programme based on calorie counting for about 4 months and am currently 4 kilograms lighter than my racing weight last year. Combined with the fact that I’m stronger and have been training harder in the pool than ever, I’m hoping this will be the key to me dropping down to the 100m breaststroke Olympic Qualifying time. I have to knock 0.96 of a second off in the heats to achieve this.”
Up against established British international breaststrokers such as Kris Gilchrist, Darren Mew, Chris Cook and James Gibson, the big challenge for Jones will be to finish in either first or second place in the final as only the top two swimmers can be selected from each event for a place in Team GB at the Beijing Olympics – “If I can make the time in the heats I will have confidence going into the final. I love to race, and proved last year at the British Championships that I can race fast in the morning. I’ve swam quicker all year then I have done in previous seasons and have had some big meets to push me, racing in Holland, France and Scotland to prepare myself against top opposition.”
Jones, who was a finalist in the 100m breaststroke and a medallist in the 4X100m Medley at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and who won a bronze medal in the 100m breaststroke at the 2005 US Open, only began swimming seriously in his third year at University. “Up to then I only swam two hours a week in Marlborough, but it was thanks to Masters swimming that I decided to increase my training. Every time I swam a personal best it was a step closer to a British Masters’ age group record. I eventually qualified for my first Nationals which was the last Olympic trials in 2004 and I swam 66.76. At the 2008 trials next week I will be competing against guys who have not achieved personal bests since then, so as long as I keep improving I will be in a strong position.”
Compared to his friends from University, Jones, who is currently studying for a professional actuarial qualification, has made many sacrifices. “They are driving nice cars and buying houses, – I am yet to properly start my career, having combined work and swimming since leaving university, with the emphasis on swimming.” With the exception of 2006, Commonwealth games year, Jones has not benefited from the funding that has been available to many other top British swimmers and in recent years has worked full time as a trainee accountant in Southampton, part time in a bar and has also taught swimming. “I now have a fantastic job in Slough. I work three days a week in the actuarial department of an insurance company. I have flexible working time and an understanding boss, so I’ve been able to combine full time swimming with a job that will further my career. But it has been tough, particularly on Fridays when I’m up at half past four to be in the pool by 5am for two hours, then I head straight to the gym before driving to Slough for work. I later return to Swindon for another 2 hours of training at 6pm. I tend to value my sleep a lot more now!”
25 year old Jones is optimistic about the future and feels that as long as he continues to improve at a similar rate it won’t be long before he breaks into the British team. “I am competing against guys who all receive funding from British Swimming and have access to offshore training camps and sport science benefits. Because of the late age that I broke into National swimming, I have missed the development funding opportunities. However, this only makes me all the more determined!”
Jones wishes his Dolphin team mates who also qualified to swim at this year’s British Championships the best of luck. The club’s top backstroker, Jon Audis competes in the 100m while Cathal Westman, a 2006 age group National silver medallist, participates in the 200m breaststroke.
The British Championships will be held at the Pond’s Forge Arena in Sheffield from 31st March to 6th April.
Source: Swindon Dolphin Press Team