He almost quit, now Chris Walker-Hebborn is back in love with swimming and raring for Rio

Bury St Edmunds swimmer Chris Walker-Hebborn. Photo: David Crawford, Still Sport

Bury St Edmunds swimmer Chris Walker-Hebborn. Photo: David Crawford, Still Sport - Credit: Archant

Chris Walker-Hebborn is ready to take this month’s British Swimming Championships by storm after rediscovering his love for the sport.

The 24-year-old admits he was close to quitting following London 2012 Olympic heartbreak, but a refocus on the shorter backstroke distances led to him finally returning to his world class junior form in an outstanding 2014.

Double gold at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, followed by two more golds and a bronze at the European Championships in Berlin, has put him firmly back on track heading towards the Rio 2016 Olympics.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of that 2012 disappointment,” admitted Walker-Hebborn, who failed to make it out of both the 100m and 200m back heats at the London Olympics. “But last year’s success helped to nullify that a bit. The way I see it is that the path I have taken has led me to where I am today.”

Reflecting on his rollercoaster journey, the swimmer, who grew up in Bury St Edmunds and who is now a 100m and 50m specialist, said: “I’ve been grinding away at this for a long time now. I had a good junior run, but everything changed when I became a senior. Things went a bit stale for me and inevitably you begin to question if you’re going to achieve your goals.

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“It’s not the most glamorous sport to train for. You’re in the pool at 6am every morning, you follow the black line day-after-day; it’s tedious. When it doesn’t come together in races it’s hard to keep your love and motivation for it.

“I came to a point at this time last year where I’d kind of decided that if 2014 didn’t go well then it might be time to move on to a new chapter in my life, even though that would have been really hard to accept.

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“It was a case of just give it everything you’ve got and be left with no feelings of ‘what if?’ Thankfully it all came together and that refuelled my love for the sport at a crucial stage of the Olympic cycle.”

This month’s British Championships, which also act as qualifiers for the World Championships (July/August, Kazan, Russia), will be staged at the London Aquatics Centre, Stratford.

“Putting down some solid times in that pool would definitely feel like another bit of redemption for 2012,” admitted the Bath-based swimmer, who has competed/trained in Tokyo, Singapore, Thailand, Qatar, Belgium, Spain and France over the past few months.

“The season’s going well, I’m feeling good and I’m heading into the summer knowing I couldn’t have done anymore in terms of my preparations.”

“I’m sure other peoples’ expectations of me have raised after last year, but I’m just trying to keep myself grounded. As good as last year was, there are still things I want to achieve. I do feel like there is more to come from me.”

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