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McClatchey considered walking away from her swimming career

April 7, 2013
Caitlin McClatchey (photo ; teamgb.com)

Caitlin McClatchey (photo ; teamgb.com)

The first came during the 2010 Commonwealth Games. A double gold medallist in Melbourne four years previously, by the time Delhi rolled around it was a very different swimmer who stepped out to compete.

Plagued with illness and injury, McClatchey could only manage a lacklustre performance. In her own words she hit rock bottom. While retiring was an inviting option, McClatchey battled back and at London 2012 made three Olympic finals. To even be there, she says, surpassed her own expectations.

Then came another crossroads as her coach Ian Armiger, who had helped re-ignite her passion for the sport after Delhi, moved to the Cayman Islands to lead their swimming programme. Again, McClatchey pondered retirement, briefly toying with the idea of pursuing a career in politics.

That has now been postponed as she looks towards a third Commonwealth Games. “I realised that I can’t pass up this chance to potentially swim at a home Commonwealth Games,” she says. “I’m fortunate enough for this to be in my lifetime, never mind being in the position to have an opportunity to compete.

“In London, being part of the home Games, I thought: ‘I want more of that.’ I’m enjoying my swimming again and thinking: ‘Well, four years isn’t that long …’ so I’m looking to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in the long term as well.”

McClatchey, 27, has swapped Loughborough University, her base for the past eight years, for Edinburgh to begin her journey towards the 2014 Commonwealth Games. She now trains under Chris Jones, head of performance swimming at the University of Edinburgh. McClatchey arrived shortly before Christmas and began training in earnest in January, the same month she started her Masters Degree in Performance Psychology.

Already she is settling in. “Edinburgh has been my second home for years so I’m loving living here. There’s such a great buzz to the city,” she says.

“I really like Chris, he’s a great coach. It’s a good fit. I’m excited to work with him and see how things go over the next few years.”

But that future is fast knocking on her door. “I can’t believe how quickly Glasgow is coming around now,” she says. “This time next year we will have done our Commonwealth Games trials. It’s scary, but exciting. It feels weird because London still feels like only yesterday. This year is going to fly by.”

Doing well in Glasgow, she says, would go some way to help salve the misery of 2010. “Before Delhi I hadn’t trained very well, I was in a programme I didn’t get on with, the coach and I had some issues,” she says. “It was difficult to be in that environment. I was ill constantly.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be racing as well as I could and that was devastating for me because four years before in Melbourne I’d won the 200m and 400m freestyle. I felt really sad because I wanted to swim well for Scotland. I don’t want to leave it like that. I want to do another Commonwealth Games – and do way better.”

Her next goal will be qualification for the World Swimming Champion-ships in Barcelona this summer. Before then she will compete at the Scottish Gas National Age Groups Championships – now opened up to senior athletes including McClatchey, Hannah Miley, Craig Benson and Keri-Anne Payne – which get under way at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

It had been McClatchey’s hope to do the 50m, 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle, but a recent bout of Norovirus means things may not quite go to plan. Even so, she is determined to give it her best shot. “It may be that I cut back and only do a couple of events. I will make that decision this week,” she says. “I’m disappointed because I would have loved the opportunity to swim well. I’m keen to try to do at least one race, but not expecting to do mega amazing times.”

Rather than temper her ambition, such setbacks only add fuel to the fire. “I would love to go to four Olympic Games,” she says. “My boyfriend [fellow swimmer] Liam Tancock is definitely carrying on to Rio so that gives added incentive. I have always wanted to get an Olympic medal, it’s the one inter-national medal I haven’t got.

“If I’m still enjoying it I definitely want to carry on, but at the moment Glasgow is very much at the forefront of my mind in terms of focus.”

heraldscotland

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