From working his way through two courses of antibiotics to finishing up with a silver medal, it was a rollercoaster of a meet for Chris Walker-Hebborn at the 2017 World Swimming Championships.
At 27, the former Bury St Edmunds schoolboy, who attended King Edward VI School, was the oldest male swimmer picked for the team which headed to the Hungarian capital Budapest.
But his fifth World Championships did not go according to plan, with a viral infection picked up in the run up seeing him laid low and requiring medical intervention.
That ruled him out of the individual 100m backstroke on Monday as well as contention for the mixed medley relay team on Wednesday.
He did finally get an outing in the Duna Arena pool on Sunday, first in the heats and then the final of the men’s 4x100m medley, and he was able to chip in with an opening backstroke leg of 54.20seconds. That was half a second slower than he managed in last year’s Olympic final. But considering his week, Walker-Hebborn was just relieved to at least play his part.
“It’s been really tough competition, definitely a first for me,” said Walker-Hebborn.
“I swam my way through two sets of antibiotics; I was pretty much on my deathbed at one point.
“It was a combination of things. At first it started off as a viral thing on the Wednesday before the start of the meet.
“I thought I could clear it and my body could fight it but it turned bacterial so I started a course of antibiotics. They didn’t work so I started another set.
“It kind of just spiralled but I managed to pull myself out of it.
“That wasn’t a phenomenal swim from me but I managed to make the most of it and I’m lucky enough to be a part of fantastic team.”
Despite the start, the team of Walker-Hebborn, Adam Peaty, James Guy and Duncan Scott still managed to post a new British record of 3mins 28.95secs on the way to finishing as runners-up to America – the same result as in Rio.
With his team-mates all reaching individual finals in their races this week though, the pressure is on Walker-Hebborn going forwards – although he remains confident he can get back to his best.
“It’s a golden ticket being a part of this team; these guys are so talented,” added Walker-Hebborn who will now take a few weeks off before refocusing on next year’s Commonwealth Games.
“As soon as I can pull my finger out and have a good run in and get back to the form that I know that I’m capable of then we will definitely be challenging for that gold medal.
“There is a lot more pressure this week as obviously that event has huge medal potential for those guys.
“Dealing with what I had to deal with wasn’t ideal but I know on a good day, and with the wind behind me, and everything going right we are well in contention for that gold.”
n You can help the next generation of young British swimmers by getting involved in SportsAid Week this September with five-time Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds OBE. Find out more about how you can support the week by visiting www.sportsaid.org.uk/sportsaidweek