Rebecca Adlington, one of Delhi 2010’s best known competitors, insists that she has never once thought of following the lead of other world-renowned athletes and dropping out.
The 21-year-old from Mansfield, who won the Olympic 400 and 800 metres freestyle titles in Beijing, never doubted she would compete in the Commonwealth Games, which open tomorrow, despite suggestions that England might boycott the Games along with other nations because of concerns over safety, construction delays and living conditions.
“I never ever really thought I was going to pull out. At the trials, we all said we were going to do it,” Adlington said. “Even all through the Doha training camp, no one was even worried. We were just getting on with our own individual preparations.”
Adlington added that she had settled happily into the Athletes’ Village. “The village — I don't see the problems,” she said. “I think it's really nice. The room I got is bigger than the room we got in Beijing. No complaints from me.”
After the relative disappointment of her showings at this summer’s European Championships in Budapest, where she won gold in the 400m but could only finish seventh in the 800m, the distance over which she had set a world record in Beijing, Adlington is determined to concentrate on looking ahead and trying to approach her racing without putting undue pressure on herself.
“It’s just a case of just forgetting about everything, just kind of enjoying the race again,” Adlington said. “It’s such a tough event. You can’t hide in the 800. It’s not like you can just bomb the 50. You can’t do that in the 800. So it’s very difficult.
“If you are swimming bad it’s a massive chunk off your pb. A second off the pace every hundred, that’s eight seconds, and it looks a lot worse than it actually is. But I think here I just need to get involved in the racing.
“Things didn’t go too well for me at the Europeans, but I went away from there and I’ve worked very hard since then. I am so excited that I am going to my first Commonwealth Games.”
Adlington will be in the pool almost every day once the swimming starts on Monday as she is scheduled to compete in the 200, 400 and 800m freestyle races and in the 4x200 relay. “It’s probably the biggest championship programme I’ve ever had,” she said.
Adlington’s female team-mates include Gemma Spofforth, who recently won a college championship in the United States for the University of Florida, and will be swimming in the 100 and 200m backstroke, while world champion Keri-Anne Payne will compete in the 400 individual medley.
Having been the “baby” of the team as a 16-year-old in Melbourne four years ago, Fran Halsall has come of age in swimming terms, having won a 100m freestyle silver at last year’s world championships and two golds, two silvers and a bronze at the European Championships held at Budapest in August.
“There wasn’t any expectation on me for those Games,” she said. “I went to experience them. I’ve got different emotions now. I’m not really as excited as I was before Melbourne.
“This time I’ve got experience and I’ve got a load of events and hopefully I can get the results I want in them.”
Spofforth shared her optimism. “We’ve got a really strong team. All the relays are looking medal prospects. I think we can get a lot of medals between us.”
England head coach Chris Nesbit said the team had not been specifically talking in terms of medals, but added that he was aiming to at least match the number of medals won in Melbourne four years ago — eight gold, 11 silver and four bronze — in an attempt to get ready for the big event at home in 2012.
“The whole thing is a development toward the London Olympics,” Nesbit said.