10 August 2008

Jemma’s set to make a splash!

Pool star feels good for Beijing

JEMMA LOWE has not long passed her driving test and will still very much be wearing her sporting L-plates in Beijing.
READY FOR ACTION: Jemma Lowe with coach Graeme Anthwhistle
The 18-year-old swimmer - whose campaign begins tomorrow with the 100m butterfly heats - is in uncharted territory as one of three Teessiders making their Olympic debuts in China but is determined to rise to the occasion at the Water Cube aquatic centre.

Judging by her form this year, the Hartlepool teenager stands every chance of enhancing her reputation as one of the brightest young talents in British swimming - and possibly winning a medal.
She swam a near three-second personal best in April to win the 200m butterfly at the British Championships, which doubled as the Olympic trials, and won silver in the 100m. Then she followed up with an outstanding two World Short Course Championship bronze medals in the 100m butterfly and medley relay in Manchester.
And her personal best times, which include two British long course records of 57.78sec and 2min 6.64sec for the 100m and 200m butterfly, are among the fastest in the world this year and rank on the all-time global list.
Jemma, who will be swimming the 100m and 200m butterfly in Beijing, along with the 4x100m medley relay, said the success has strengthened her inner belief as she keeps a level head for the 29th Games.
“The times I got at the trials made me think I had a chance of getting a medal at the Worlds,” said the Borough of Stockton Swim Scheme star.
“I’d never even thought of that before. That has given me a boost for Beijing but I don’t want to get too excited.
“I’ve just got to keep focused and do my best. I’m not nervous at all, I’m more excited than anything.”
The former High Tunstall School pupil said it is the realisation of a lifelong ambition to be going to the Olympics - but stressed that she is treating it like any other event.
“It’s my first time at the Olympics and it means everything to me to be going,” she said.
“I’ve been training for 10 years, all of those lengths of the pool and all that swimming takes up a lot of my time and a lot of my social time.
“I don’t get much time for that and obviously the Olympics is the biggest thing in sport.
“It’s the highest level and why everyone does sport. People say it’s just an experience because of the London Games coming up 2012.
“But I think it’s going to be just as hard qualifying for 2012 as it was this year.
“Because there are always young, new people coming up all the time. I’m just going to go for it this time, I’m not going to make up the numbers.
“It was never really about 2008 for us, the main one had always been 2012.
“But I don’t see it as coming four years early because I’ve been working really hard.
“I’m going to go for it and try my very best and see what happens.
“It’s another competition at the end of the day. I’ve competed in so many competitions and just think of all the stuff I’ve had to do to get there and of the things I’ve been through.”
Jemma, who has overcome a back injury to qualify, is Hartlepool’s first Olympian for 40 years - swimmers Margaret Auton and Dorothy Harrison were the town’s last representatives in Mexico 1968.
“It’s crazy to be the first Olympian from Hartlepool for so long and I’m proud to be keeping up the tradition,” she said.
And, unlike in the 2006 Commonwealth Games when she swam for Wales, she will be accompanied by club coach Graeme Anthwhistle, who is part of the GB Olympic coaching set-up.
“I was really happy when I found out Graeme was going because he knows what I’m like,” she said of the mentor who has overseen her rise through the swimming ranks.
Jemma believes the 200m butterfly represents her best chance of a top placing and expects the heats to be even more intense than the finals.
She said: “I’ve always preferred the
100, probably because it’s shorter!
“But my 200 always seems to get me up there. I looked at the results from last time and most of the semi-final times were faster than the final because everyone maxes out in the semis to get into the final.”
Australian Jessicah Schipper and Poland’s Otylia Jedrzejczak are the established butterfly powerhouses and event favourites, and Jemma hopes to be at the front of a fiercely competitive chasing pack with little to choose between them.
“They will be my biggest rivals, along with a Japanese girl, and we don’t know what the Chinese will do because they aren’t anywhere in the rankings,” said the ex-English Martyrs Sixth Form student.
“There is always the one random one that comes through that no-one has heard of before as well.”
Hartlepool’s Sports Personality of the Year is currently completing her Olympic build-up in Osaka, Japan with the rest of the British Swimming squad.
Training aside and her immediate aim is to stay healthy and avoid any last-minute minor colds or viruses - and any self-inflicted injuries.
“Things are falling into place hopefully. I’m injury and niggle-free,” she said.
“Although having said that, I’m a bit accident-prone! My first nationals when I was 12 I broke my toe on a plant pot two weeks before.
“And when I went to Mexico on an altitude training camp I was running down a ramp and didn’t even fall over but my knee went and I did a medial ligament.
“So it’s no running down ramps or gardening between now and Beijing!”
Britain’s swimmers, like their cycling counterparts, excelled at this year’s World Championships in taking a record 24 medals, three of them gold.
And Jemma feels they can maintain their high standards in the Far East.
“I think and hope Britain will do better than we have ever done,” she said.

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