BURY St Edmunds’ swimmer Chris Walker-Hebborn admits the notion of being an Olympian still hasn’t quite sunk in as he sets about making a splash at London 2012.
The 21-year-old will be flying the flag for Great Briatin in the pool this Summer after qualifying for the 200 and 100 metre backstroke events at the end of last week.
Competing at the ASA National Championships in Sheffield, in front of his proud father, Walker-Hebborn put in his best time of the year of one minute 57.17 seconds to clinch one of only two remaining 200m GB berths — before going out again two days later and achieving qualification in the 100m event.
“It is just about starting to sink in that I’m going to the Olympics,” said the Team Ipswich swimmer now based in Team GB’s intensive training centre in Bath. “I almost have to brush it off that I had qualified because I have to get straight back into preparation for the Games.
“However, I was definitely relieved and just delighted to make my parents proud.
“Now I can start to look forward to the Summer and start to imagine what competing at the Olympics will be like.”
Looking ahead to stepping out at the Aquatics Centre in July in front of an expectant home crowd, Walker-Hebborn, who first came to prominence in the 2008 European Junior Championships in Belgrade, where he took four gold medals, conceded he is not sure of what to expect but is confident he will deal with the added pressure.
“No-one knows what to expect from the home crowd, it will be a shock but hopefully in a good way,” he added.
“I thrive off pressure and atmosphere and so for me I think it will be a good thing.
“I don’t want to put any added pressure on myself talking about medals, I am just delighted to be representing the UK at a home games.
“However, I will give 100 per cent and I think I am more than capable of making the final and then you never know what to expect.”
n One athlete who won’t be joining Walker-Hebborn in London is Bury St Edmunds’ hand cyclist Brian Alldis, after missing out on selection for the Paralympic Games.
Alldis decided to switch from wheelchair racing to hand cycling in 2010 in search of a place at London 2012, a gamble that has ultimately not paid dividends.
However, despite his omission, the 26-year-old, who is flying out to compete in the Czech Republic tomorrow, remained positive.
“I’m not too disappointed to have missed out because I knew I wasn’t up to the mark of where I needed to be,” he added. “My focus is now on Rio 2016 and I will be looking to continue my improvement in the next four years.”
n Meanwhile, thousands of Suffolk school children will be competing in their own mini Olympics at Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre and King Edward VI Upper School in the inaugural Suffolk School Games on Friday and the Redrow Homes Suffolk Youth Games the following day.