Chris Walker-Hebborn back with a bang and ready to take on the world
- Credit: Archant
Bury St Edmunds swimmer Chris Walker-Hebborn is ready to take on the world again following his spectacular return to form at the British Championships.
The 23-year-old was close to quitting the sport following a disappointing display at the London 2012 Olympic Games, but a winter of intense training – both in the gym and the pool – has seen him come back with a bang.
He smashed his personal best to claim the 100m backstroke gold medal in a time of 53.38 seconds in Sheffield last week, ending the four-year domestic reign of Liam Tancock, then claimed silver in the 200m back in a season best time of 1:57.20.
It means he will compete in both events at the World Championships – which begin in Barcelona at the end of this month – and is now among the five best backstroke specialists in the world.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster of a week,” said the former Team Ipswich Swimming Club member, who is now based in Bath. “I didn’t feel physically drained at the end of it, it was just the mental side of things which took its toll.
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“You put a lot of pressure on yourself and other people have expectations of you too. I actually think there is more pressure at the National Championships – attempting to make those qualifying times – than there is at the World Championships.
“The World Championships have only ever really been in the back of my mind. I wasn’t really thinking about them because there were a few things I needed to do for myself first – now I’ve done that and more.
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“Now I’m just looking forward to going away to Barcelona and competing against the world’s best. I believe I’m now fifth in the world, so that gives me a lot of confidence.”
The former European junior champion – who finished ninth at the 2009 World Championships in Rome and then a disappointing 17th when the bi-annual event took place in Shanghai in 2011 (both times in the 200m back) – continued: “I’m going to be competing in the relay, 200m, 100m and potentially the 50m too. That will be the most number of events I’ve ever competed in at a World Championships.
“I wasn’t expecting to go that quick in the 100m last week. To beat Tanny (Liam Tancock) was bitter-sweet because he’s a great ambassador for the sport and someone I’ve always looked up to.
“I know he’ll come back swinging and it can only be good for British swimming if we’re pushing each other on.”