Kate Haywood admits her ongoing injury woes have almost driven her to retirement ahead of her first competitive swim in a year at the British Gas Swimming Championships.
Kate Haywood is not expecting much from next week's national championships in Sheffield after a year plagued by injury (Getty Images)
The 22-year-old has struggled both physically and mentally since tearing the cartilage in her hip shortly after winning 100m breaststroke gold at the British Championships this time last year.
Instead of preparing for the World Championships in July, Haywood was preparing herself for surgery and spent nearly two months recovering on crutches.She has since returned to the pool but only tentatively, with surgeons advising her that it could take as long as 12 months for her to recover fully.
"At times I did feel like packing it all in and just doing a normal job, I even said that to my coach, Ben Titley, after the operation," said Haywood - who will turn 23 next week.
"I was sat on the sofa for three weeks and on crutches for five weeks and it was really difficult being out of the pool for so long.
"It is still difficult and it has taken a lot of work to build back up to where I want to be but I know I have to keep going.
"I am not quite there yet in terms of recovery, I still can't do a huge amount of breaststroke and the surgeons told me it can take as long as 12 months for it to fully heal.
"It is sometimes very painful and the area around it can go into spasm. I'm not 100 per cent and I just have to be careful and make sure I get enough recovery between swims in Sheffield."
The British Gas Championships at Ponds Forge present the first opportunity for English athletes to qualify for the Commonwealth Games - but Haywood admits it is unlikely she will do so.
A lack of depth in the English ranks will stand her in good stead even if her injury problems don't, with current British leading breaststroke lights Lowri Tynan and Georgia Holderness both Welsh.
But Haywood remains committed to a third Commonwealth appearance in Delhi.
She was the youngest swimmer on the English team in Manchester eight years ago, winning bronze in the 4x100m medley relay. She upgraded that medal to silver in Melbourne and is dreaming of completing the set in India.
"The British champs are definitely a big ask, I'm not 100 per-cent fit and there are some swimmers who are seven months ahead of me in terms of training," she added.
"It is going to be difficult to qualify but my main aim is still the Commonwealth Games. There is another opportunity in August but I will go to Sheffield and see what happens.
"There are no expectations on me to qualify and if I don't qualify I then have to make sure I qualify in August but I should be pretty much back to full fitness by then."
Story courtesy of morethanthegames By Ryan Bangs, Sportsbeat