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BGIM 2013: Carlin ready to rebuild after miserable 2012
FOR Jazz Carlin, 2012 was a year to forget.
While dozens of Team GB athletes wrote themselves into sporting folklore at the Olympics, the Swindon swimmer found herself looking on frustrated as matters played out at London Aquatics Centre.
For a fierce competitor who had picked up silver and bronze at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and relay bronze at the World Championships in 2009, it was an unfamiliar position. And the hard luck story that had brought the freestyle specialist to that point was down there with the worst of them.
Glandular fever had already wrecked her World Championship campaign in Shanghai in 2011 and the former Swindon Tigershark suffered badly with tonsillitis before arriving at the first set of Olympic trials in March.
Nonetheless determined to give it her best shot, she fell short in the 200m and 400m and was then forced out of the 800m final due to illness.
That failure left Carlin with only one option, to become a sprint swimmer inside the space of three months, with the second trials in Sheffield giving her the opportunity to secure a berth in the 200m.
Carlin stayed free of illness during this time, but come ASA Nationals she simply couldn’t swim fast enough, her fourth-placed finish ruling her out of both individual and relay events. Understandably, she left the pool area in floods of tears.
“I know it’s only sport, but when it means so much to you, it’s hard to ignore it,” she said.
“It’s always difficult when you have a failure or a disappointment in sport, and competing in the London Olympics was a dream of mine.
“It really was an emotional rollercoaster. I was really down, my mum and dad took me on holiday and it was hard for me to enjoy myself.
“Not qualifying for the Olympics, I didn’t feel I deserved a holiday, which is hard to say. I really was down in the dumps and didn’t feel myself any more.”
But with the summer off from competitive action, Carlin began the process of rebuilding.
She had her tonsils removed in an attempt to prevent further illness and returned to Swansea Intensive Training Centre determined to regain the attitude that had earned her the nickname of Pitbull from coach Bud McAllister.
“Having my tonsils out was a big bonus and I think that’s definitely taken the pressure off,” she said.
“As an athlete one of the hardest things is missing training because of injury or illness, but I’ve not got that to worry about now.
“Given that it was a horrible situation not making the Olympics, I’ve come out stronger and a better person. I’ve become more motivated in training and I’m pushing myself even harder than I was before.
“Even though it was such a negative, I’m trying to bring out the positives.”
Those positives were in clear evidence when Carlin travelled to Istanbul for the World Short Course Championships in December.
She was ninth-fastest in 400m heats but made the final after the fastest qualifier, Katinka Hosszu, pulled out.
Carlin seized the opportunity with both hands, beating her own Welsh record to finish fifth, also adding another fifth place in the 4x200m relay.
Given that short course is by no means Carlin’s forte and taking into account her struggles of the previous 18 months, they were notable swims.
Now the 22-year-old is focused on building further on that with the World Championships in Barcelona coming up this summer, not to mention the Commonwealths in Glasgow next year.
“This year is about gaining my confidence back. The knock last year has taken a lot out of me emotionally and it’s about getting that confidence back and believing that I still can do it,” she said.
“The World Championships in the summer is what I’ll be aiming to make and then I will reassess it from there.
“I wouldn’t want to go there and make up the team, I’d always want to go there for medals. But I’ll see where it takes me and if training continues as it has done, I hope it will be a different year for me.
“We can qualify for the Commonwealth Games this summer (either at the World Championships or US Nationals) to take the pressure off for next year, so I’ll be aiming to do that.
“I believe the times are achievable and it’s exciting to think that by the end of this summer, I could be going to the Commonwealth Games.
“I’ve been twice already, so to go for a third time would be amazing.”
With UK Sport cutting swimming’s annual budget by 15 per cent to £21.3m in the wake of GB’s poor performance in the pool at London 2012, plenty of swimmers have suffered.
Carlin is one of the unlucky ones, as she will receive no funding from the authority this year, instead relying from contributions from her own sponsors, Bupa, Landmark and Honda.
But received wisdom says that adversity sometimes brings out the best in people, and Carlin’s targets remain as high as ever in spite of recent setbacks.
“I still want to be making the podium at World Championships and Commonwealth Games and Europeans. I’m still up for another four years before Rio,” she said.
“I’ve got goals in my head that I want to achieve and I don’t want to stop until I’ve achieved them. I know I can still do it.
“I want to prove it to myself and other people.”
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