The poverty was a situation that Paul hoped would
become history, and that upon his return home, money would come rolling
in. He hoped that the days of penny-pinching for both him and his coach,
Ian Turner, would be things of the past.
But three months after the Olympics, it's back
to the old regime, only now Ian Turner is back to his full-time job as a
teacher. Ian is one of Britain's many part-time coaches, fitting coaching
around a full-time job.
Six months before the Atlanta Olympics, Ian, recognizing
Paul Palmer's talent and potential for Olympic glory, took time out from
teaching and became a full-time coach on a part-time salary. Both Paul and
Ian acknowledged that warm-weather training was essential, so at regular
intervals, they went abroad to Cypress and the United States, for weeks
at a time.
The pressure and close proximity of living in each
other's pockets told on both. But at the end of a long dark tunnel dangled
the carrot of an Olympic medal, and what they both saw as an end to being
second class citizens compared to the other successful swimmer-coach partnerships,
such as Alexander Popov and Gennadi Touretski, and Danyon Loader and Duncan
Alexander Popov left Russia and followed his mentor
to Australia, where Alexander lives the true life of a top professional
sportsman. Compare that to Paul, who had to train in a 25-m school pool,
not at times suitable for competition, but at times when the pool was not
being used by the pupils.
Paul's only real financial support came from the
Sports Aid Foundation, but out of this, Paul had to pay for both his and
Ian's costs to the warm-weather training camps, training costs at home,
and his share of living expenses at home.
Paul Palmer's near-perfect race in the Georgia
Tech Pool in Atlanta is somewhat of a blur. He admits "It was the greatest
moment of my life, but it seems a world away." At the time, he hoped
things would change for the better when he got home. But nothing has changed,
and he does admit that deep down "Perhaps I did not expect it to."
At the time, government officials promised financial
assistance for sport and its competitors. But to date, none of this has
come to fruition. Paul and Ian face another winter of discontent. Paul claims
he has not "heard a thing from the governing body." The financial
offers have not been flooding in. His only extra is a car from Rover.
Paul's criticism of the governing body does not
end there. Joining the successful duo of Paul Palmer and Ian Turner was
Patrick Maloney, a helicopter pilot. Patrick Maloney did not contribute
trips in his helicopter, but rather, the use of a metronomic pace maker
that bleeped in Paul's ear. It is a unique training partner, designed by
Patrick, that helps break the monotony of a middle distance freestyle swimmer.
Full of praise for the invention, Paul admits "It's
helped me enormously and I've made that clear for awhile now. So, have any
efforts been made officially to supply British swimmers with this aid? None.
Other countries have, but not us."
All may not be gloom and doom, for Ian is in talks
with the city of Bath, where a new 50-m pool is about to be opened. The
city would also provide a land training facility and full-time physiotherapist
backup. About the prospect, Ian says "To say it's exciting is an understatement.
I believe it could be the leading setup in the country. There's a superb
50-m pool, dedicated land training facilities, and you start with a clean
blackboard." The chance of becoming involved in such a scheme has given
Ian a new lease on life. If successful in his application, the setup will
make a world of difference to both him and Paul.
For Ian, who described Paul's silver medal-winning
swim as "the moment when all the sacrifices, the struggles, the hard
work paid off," it would enable him to fulfill his coaching ambition,
as he would be in total control. For Paul, now 22, it would make training
so much easier. It would also mean making a drastic change to Paul's lifestyle.
He would no longer be able to rely on his parents, Philip, an RAF pilot,
and Fiona, for home comforts.
But whatever happens, both Paul Palmer and Ian
Turner are determined that nothing will break up the successful duo, even
if Paul gets fed up with hearing "don't lift your head at the turn
don't breathe in the last 15 m." But Paul did not do these things in
his Olympic final, for it was as natural as kicking his legs and lifting
Paul and Ian's relationship, which started when Paul was just a small boy, has generated three European junior golds, two European silvers, a world short course bronze, and the Olympic silver medal. They both hope it will culminate with gold in the Sydney 2000 Olympics.