WERE medals being handed out for enthusiasm alone, Fran Halsall would surely threaten Michael Phelps’s record eight-gold haul in Beijing at next summer’s London Olympics.
As an exceptionally talented 21-year-old athlete, of whom much is expected, the Southport-born swimmer could be forgiven were she to feel a sense of trepidation ahead of the biggest eight months of her sporting career.
While some senior Team GB members have been hesitant to speak about what the next year might hold, Halsall bursts into a fit of giggles and smiles when the prospect of competing at the biggest sporting event this nation has hosted since the 1966 World Cup is mentioned.
“The Olympics are so close now that it’s actually helping me,” Halsall tells City A.M. “You do so much hard stuff in training where you have to push yourself every day. You have to know something good is going to come out of it and qualifying for the Olympics is that boost you need to keep you going.
“I know it sounds a bit daft but I really want to swim in that pool because it looks so fast – it’s all new and shiny and I can’t wait to see what it looks like once it’s full of screaming British fans.
“Some people might be sick of it already but I love the fact you can’t escape the Olympics. Every time you turn the TV on you see an advert with an Olympic logo or you hear something on the radio about it.
“I feel incredibly privileged that my career is going to coincide with a home Olympics and it makes you determined to be a big part of it.”
Despite her tender years, Halsall – who provided a rare highlight for Europe in last weekend’s Duel in the Pool contest, won convincingly by America in Atlanta, by helping Europe’s women set a world record in the 4x100metres freestyle relay – is no Olympic novice, having represented Great Britain in China three years ago.
Having seen at first hand the impact Olympic success has had on the life of close friend Rebecca Adlington, who became a household name on the back of her exploits in China where she won gold in the 400m and 800m freestyle, Halsall is acutely aware of what lies in store, should she follow suit.
“It is a bit of a relief to have some sort of experience behind me already,” she admits. “I won’t be going in blind so to speak, I know that competing an Olympics is something completely different.
“A surreal bubble is the best way I can really describe it. Staying in a village with hundreds of athletes to being in the call room waiting alongside people you’ve known all your sporting life before your event takes place – nothing really prepares you for that.
“Obviously I know what it will be like now and hopefully it will help me when it comes to next year, but as for how we’d handle success we’re all extremely lucky that we’ve got Rebecca as a role model.
“I see her once a week because we both train at Loughborough. She hasn’t changed a bit despite all the success that has come her way and even when she’s had some low points it doesn’t affect her.
“From that point of view we’re very lucky she’s on the team because she is the perfect person to learn from.”
Fran Halsall is an ambassador for Multipower sportsfood. For sports nutrition tailored to your individual needs visit www.multipoweruk.com
FRAN’S TIPS TO HELP MAKE YOU SWIM LIKE A PRO
1 Enjoy yourself. Getting fit and exercising shouldn’t become a chore, but swimming can be a pretty repetitive pursuit by its very nature because you are confined to the water. So, as much as you can, try and mix things up to keep it interesting. Practice different strokes, even if it’s out of your comfort zone and set yourself achievable targets.
2 Less is often more. Plenty of amateurs make the mistake of thinking big, extravagant arm movements will help propel you through the water faster, when the opposite is true, particularly if you’re swimming breastroke, where you should be concentrating on short, sharp motions and creating as little water resistance as possible.
3 Practise your starts. This isn’t key if you’re swimming simply to get fit, but if you’re racing at any level it’s crucial to get this nailed. The temptation is to lift you’re head out of the water to see how far you’ve travelled, but if you really focus you’ll be surprised how long you can keep your head down for. It’s also important to keep compact and streamlined.