BURY St Edmunds’ swimmer Chris Walker-Hebborn knows it is make or break time as he prepares to fulfil his dream of securing his place at this year’s Olympic Games.
The 21-year-old will be handed a second shot at Olympic qualification after missing out at the British Championships in the Olympic Aquatic Centre at Stratford back in March, when he travels to Sheffield for the ASA National Championships later this month.
The Team Ipswich swimmer, now based at British Swimming’s intensive training centre in Bath, finished third in the 200m backstroke at the British Championships in one minute 59.8 seconds, behind team-mate Calum Jarvis, who won the race in one minute 59.48 seconds and Marco Loughran in second in 1:59.79, but all three were well outside the Olympic qualifying time of 1:58.48, which Walker-Hebborn – with a personal best of 1:56.00, was confidently expected to achieve.
Ahead of the National Championships, the former British record holder warmed up for his second chance of qualification by posting his fastest time of the season and winning 200m backstroke gold in Barcelona at the weekend, as the only swimmer to go under two minutes, finishing in 1.59.04.
Speaking to the Free Press from Spain, Walker-Hebborn acknowledged the added pressure of needing to take his last chance of qualification but remained hopeful of clinching one of two remaining spots in the Great Britain squad.
“It is definitely coming up to a make or break time for me if I am going to qualify for the Olympic Games,” he said.
“However I swam well in Barcelona and my times are looking good so hopefully that will put me in good form ahead of the trials in Sheffield.
“There is obviously the added pressure of having to still qualify but there are still two spots left and I am confident of clinching my place.
“My training and race times out here have definitely given me confidence and I’m feeling good.
“I need to be a second quicker than last time and if all goes well than I think I am capable of going between 1.57 and 1.56 so hopefully I can do that.”
Despite feeling confident, Walker-Hebborn, who first came to prominence in the 2008 European Junior Championships in Belgrade, where he took four gold medals, is fully aware selection is far from guaranteed with strong competition for places, particularly from team mate Jarvis and Loughran, but remained focused on the task in hand.
“I’m aware selection isn’t guaranteed,” he added.
“Marco will be in the mix, Callum is also hitting form and there are a few others that will be capable as well so it all comes down to what happens on the day.
“I have thought about what it would be like to clinch my place but now I just need to do it.
“It is time to focus and I am determined to make the team.”