THE thought of swimming at the Commonwealth Games has Tilly Gray in goosebumps, as the Glasgow event looms large on the horizon.
Former Swindon Dolphin star Gray will represent England in the 200m butterfly in Scotland at the end of the month, bringing a crazy year in and out of the pool to a close in the process.
Having already qualified to turn out for Wales, the Bath-based swimmer was told at the turn of the year that she was ineligible to race for the Red Dragon country and had to go through a second period of qualification for Team England.
Now she admits to being constantly preparing herself for more bad news - but the thought of competing at a major international event in front of her family and friends has helped her through a long and rigorous training programme.
Gray told the Advertiser: “I’m very much looking forward to the Commonwealth games but also to the end of this crazy years. I’ve got to focus on doing my ultimate performances there. The thoughts of my family and friends watching gives me goosebumps. If I’m having a rubbish time those thoughts bring me back to reality and give me that extra push.
“Seeing an advert on telly now and thinking ‘oh my goodness, I’m going to be there’ is really hitting home. Last time I qualified and then told I couldn’t swim for Wales and now it’s almost as though I’m always waiting for bad news, which sounds terrible but that’s what I’ve been experiencing.
“When I got my kit and did the kit day, that’s when it really hit me. It’s really exciting and I want to savour every day and make sure every day is really effective in what I’m doing.”
The few competitive swims Gray has managed during her intense preparation for the games have not hit the heights of recent months but she is convinced that her well-structured training programme, devised by coach Mark Skimming, will have her firing on all cylinders in Glasgow.
“We’ve been doing a few competitions but this is very different to my training programme from last year. I could always pop out very respectable swims all year round because, to be honest, it almost felt like I was always fresh, whereas this training is very much focused on the taper,” she said.
“To have to produce swims in season is actually really challenging and a few of the swims I’ve produced haven’t been great but my coach has said ‘don’t get knocked by this at all, it’s not that you’re not doing everything you can it’s that you’re exhausted and your body can only give you so much right now’.
“I’m not losing confidence and I know this is just a phase I’m in. Hopefully in September when I start again with Bath I will have a lot more consistency and it will be a much smoother running season.”