COMMONWEALTH GAMES: Bury St Edmunds’ swimmer Chris Walker-Hebborn ready for redemption in Glasgow
- Credit: PA
Chris Walker-Hebborn is ready for redemption at Glasgow 2014.
The Bury St Edmunds-born swimmer admitted he seriously considered quitting the sport following London 2012 disappointment.
The 24-year-old had long been tipped for big things at his home Olympics having shown huge promise in the backstroke events on the world and European stage as a junior.
His progress plateaued at a crucial moment though and he finished well down the heats at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, again failing to make the semi-finals in London.
After much soul-searching, the Bath-based swimmer decided to reinvent himself – retiring from his favoured 200m back and instead concentrating on the 100m and 50m back following some impressive gains in the shorter distances.
It was a bold decision and one that has been fully justified.
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The former Team Ipswich swimmer claimed gold in both events at the British Championships in Glasgow back in April, his winning times of 53.82 and 25.09 respectively ranking him 10th and 13th in the world respectively.
Take out the swimmers from the non-Commonwealth nations and he goes into this week’s heats as the second favourite for the 50m (behind Australia’s Ben Treffers) and fourth favourite for the 100m (behind Australian trio Mitchell Larkin, Treffers and Ashley Delaney).
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“I don’t want to jinx things, touch wood and all that, but I’m hoping for big things,” said Walker-Hebborn, who claimed a bronze at the 2010 Commonwealth games in Delhi.
“The Olympics was a big blow and it was tough to pick myself up, but last year I made the decision to retire from the 200m, to focus on the 100m and 50m, and it has rekindled my love for the sport.
“It was a big decision because 200m had always been my strongest event, but I felt as though I wasn’t making any more progress and I was beginning to make some big gains in the shorter distances.”
He continued: “Changing events like that has been a whole different ball game in terms of training, diet and race preparation.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the gym and gone from 78 kilos to 85 kilos - I’m in the best shape I’ve been for a long time.
“I’ve always had that front end twitch and have added some extra power, but hopefully, due to my background as 200m swimmer, I’ll have that extra bit of endurance too.”
On taking his number of British gold medals to 12 earlier this summer, he said: “It was a good little confidence boost, but to be honest I was hoping for even quicker times. I guess that bodes well.
“Everything has been building up to the Commonwealths because success here would go a long way to making up for 2012.
“These are essentially another home Games for the British athletes and I can’t wait.
“I’m swimming in four events (100m back, 50m back, 4x100m medley and 4x100m freestyle) and I want four medals. I won’t say what colours, but I’m feeling good.”
Thursday 24th: 100m back; heats 12.20-12.35, semi-finals 20.49-21.00.
Friday 25th: 4x100m free; heats 12.07-12.25; 100m back final; 21.03-21.06; 4x100m free final 21.25-21.30.
Saturday 26th: 50m back; heats 11.10-11.23, semi-finals 19.53-20.03.
Sunday 27th: 50m back final; 20.59-21.07.
Tuesday 29th: 4x100m medley; heats 11.30-11.48, final 21.12-21.19.