Strength Of Wolf Is The Pack - Pursley
Jul 25, 2012 - Craig Lord
Big surprise: there will be no British swimmers at the opening ceremony at the Olympics with the pool programme set to start the next morning. Neither will Keri-anne Payne, the marathon world champion who takes the plunge August 9, the entire swim team having entered an "all go or none" pact of team support.
She was one of three swimmers, alongside teammates James Goddard and Robbie Renwick, to appear at a team press conference today here at the Olympic Park - but none of the host nation's women medal hopes in the pool opted in. They were given a choice to attend or not to attend and decided that "recovery", "rest" and "practice" were more important to their final preparations than an umpteenth media love-in.
On the opening ceremony decision, Goddard noted: "One of the things about this team is the swimmers get a lot of input into our preparation into the Olympic Games. And as a group of swimmers with (national performance director) Michael Scott and a couple of the other staff we sat down and as a team we decided not to go to the opening ceremony because performance comes first. Athletes have got to make many sacrifices in their lives. Ideally we'd all like to go but performance comes first and we all respect that decision. It's a long day, there's a lot of walking involved, a party atmosphere I suppose, especially with it being the next day we need to stay relaxed and focused on our race."
The all-for-one, one-for-all spirit was one fostered head coach Dennis Pursley, who read his team a poem by Rudyard Kipling this week. From The Jungle Book came:
"I believe that," Pursley said. "Team spirit creates strength, but it has to come from within the athletes. There needs to be a real genuine caring on the part of each athlete for his or her team-mates and for their performances. It is something each athlete can sense and feel. You feed off one another's momentum."
Payne, meanwhile, will race alone in the 10km knowing she has a big team support behind her. She revealed that her last-hour preparations saw her become the first swimmer to try out the marathon course in the Serpentine in Hyde Park. She was delighted - the water at 21C and reeds the only impediment to clear swimming.
Said Payne: "I've just come from the Serpentine, the first athlete to have swum in it which I think is quite cool. There were lots of very excited volunteers who were very helpful. I'm glad I did it for the taste."
She added through laughter: "I had to fight with a couple of ducks though to get past the buoys. It's really nice water to swim in - the only thing was that with all the reeds I got a little bit tangled in the reeds but I've learned from that now."
Her last word was to thank the volunteers at the Olympic Park and along the way wherever you go in London. "They have just been fantastic and I want to say thanks to them."
Meanwhile, performance head Michael Scott noted that the team had been injury and illness-free. Britain would be stronger in London than it had been in Shanghai at world titles a year ago, he belived, saying: "We've focused on the small things that can make the difference in and out of the pool. We learned from Shanghai (World Championships) last year where we missed three medals by a very small margin and we had focused on doing the little things right to make sure in London 2012 we are successful as a team. London 2012 is a critical launching pad for the sport for the future."
He also defended the men's team against suggestions that the Britain women's team was stronger in world waters. Scott believed that up to 12 swimmers had a shot at the podium in London.
"We have more swimmers that have been on the podium over the last four years and more that have the potential, instead of having one or two medal potentials, we have twelve. Since I’ve been in post, nearly five years now, the girls have been leading the way but I’m starting to see a shift in the tides. Whether that happens here in London or in the next four years, it will definitely happen. We have some really talented male swimmers on the team and their time will come."
World champion 50m backstroke ace and podium hope in the 100m, Liam Tancock added at a Team GB House gathering later in the day: "If you look at any sport it’s one of those things that goes in peaks and troughs, the females do well for a couple of years and the male do well for a couple. We don’t break it down, we are as one Team GB and everyone gets behind each other."