As part of one of the strongest teams British swimming has ever witnessed, 23-year-old Joanne Jackson is at the forefront of the line-up of Olympic hopefuls. Having won a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, she went on to beat the double gold medallist Rebecca Adlington and smash the world record in the 400m freestyle.
Despite receiving less attention than her team rival (and close friend), Jackson relishes her memories from Beijing. “It was crazy, but such an amazing experience. To represent your home country anyway is fantastic but then to come home with a medal was really unexpected. It was so exciting standing on the podium with Becky, it was a great experience for us both. We still remember it like it was yesterday.”
Originally from Yorkshire but now training at Loughborough University with the likes of fellow world record-holder Liam Tancock, Jackson also hopes that those experiences will serve as motivation for the 2012 Games. “It’s great to see an improvement after our last Olympics as we all swam really well there and came away with more medals than we ever have before,” said Jackson. “Hopefully we can take that into next year, and because the home crowd will be there cheering for us, we’ll have some amazing swims and get lots of medals for everyone.”
And what of the pressure of a home Olympics? “At the moment we’re alright, but I think by this time next year we’ll all be shaking! We get more nervous for the trials – actually making the team is more nerve-wracking because once you’re on the team you get a buzz from it.”
Of her training, Jackson cites variety as key, with the team even trying some alternative methods to keep them in shape. “I do about six hours in the pool every day, but I think one of the good things about doing a sport is the variation. At the moment we’re doing kick-boxing and rock climbing as well, which is obviously great for your strength. We had kick-boxing last night and we got our white belts. We were really excited about that and it was really good fun. I think the change motivates you.”
Having represented GB as a junior, Jackson also sees this as an important time to inspire young people through sport, in the hope of delivering on the promise of an Olympic legacy. “It’s such an exciting time for supporters, especially if you can get young kids involved. When the Games are finished, there’s still an Olympics four years after that, so even though it’s not going to be in London it’s still a massive experience. If more people get involved now, then maybe they’ll be there in 2016 or even 2020.”
While attending the launch of Basildon Sports Village, a new £38 million state-of-the-art facility catering for some of the country’s top athletes, she had this advice for our swim stars of the future: “A lot of kids can feel like they have to do it and that there’s pressure. Obviously there’s a lot of hard work involved, but I train with four girls and we’re really good friends and we’re in it together. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re not going to do very well and you’re not going to want to be there, so just enjoy it and take every opportunity you get.”
For more information on the Everyone Active Basildon Sporting Village, visit www.everyoneactive.com
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