CRUNCH time is approaching for local swimmers Charlotte Henshaw and Ollie Hynd as they prepare for the first London 2012 Paralympic swimming trials in London early next month.
Both youngsters harbour ambitions to win gold medals in front of their home crowd in London this summer.
But both also know that unless they first produce the goods at the trials, their past achievements will count for nothing as they will sit and watch the Games with the rest of the nation instead of taking part.
The British Gas Swimming Championships (3rd-9th March) will be the first chance they have had to swim at the new London Aquatic Centre.
The second trials will be at the British International Disability Swimming Championships at Sheffield, on 6th-8th April.
Meeting the media at a Mansfield District Council-organised press conference at the Water Meadows pool last week, the pair, who have both been awarded Nottinghamshire County Council Shining Stars funding of £2,102 each, spoke of their ambitions.
“Training has been going really well,” said Ollie (17), of Kirkby, who won a gold, a silver and two bronze medals at the PIC European Championships in Berlin last year.
“I am excited now to rest and hopefully swim fast. It has been punishing but it will be worth it in the end. I am in good physical shape. Berlin was a good meeting for me as I managed to get the European record, which was nice, and PBs across the board.”
Also in the pool with him in Berlin was Ollie’s celebrated brother Sam Hynd, who won Paralympic gold in 2008. Ollie sees it as a healthy competition.
“In the pool were are competitive and very professional,” he said. “You’ve got a job to do. But we are brothers at the end of the day. There is a bit of banter but we will shake hands whatever the outcome. We push each other on.
“In 2008 I was there in Beijing watching him achieve what he did which was a good experience.”
Ollie isn’t thinking too hard about London just yet as he knows he still has the massive hurdle of the Sheffield trials to overcome first.
He said: “You have to swim well on the day if you want to make the team. But if you’ve done the right things in your preparation and go out there and show it, you should get the result.
“I am just focusing on the trials. If I get my name on the team sheet then I can think about the Games.
Also hoping to represent Great Britain again, Charlotte (25), of Mansfield, intends to use her disappointment at fourth place in Beijing as the spur to complete her ‘unfinished business’.
She explained: “I was gutted I didn’t medal. Coming fourth for most sportspeople is the worst place to come. You’d rather come a long way off the medals. But if I’d come out of that with the desired outcome perhaps I wouldn’t be swimming now.
“I only intended to swim while I was at university and expected to wind down a bit after graduating. But I have unfinished business. I didn’t want to end my international representation with a fourth place.
“It was my first time I had represented Great Britain so I was thrown in at the deep end – the biggest competition you can have – and I was away from home for a month. That took a lot of getting used to and was a learning curve.
“I had an infection while I was out there and spent all my time in a wheelchair which I never use at home. That really took it out of me.
“But you can use everything as a positive and since Beijing I have won European gold, World silver and broke my own world record twice.”
Charlotte admitted it was difficult not to think about London with the national media building up the anticipation to fever pitch.
“You can’t help but feel the pressure especially when everyone is so focused on the Games. I have been doing interviews about London for about two years now,” she said.
“But I know there won’t be a Games for me if I don’t perform well in the trials so they are my prime focus. I want to get my name on the list, then I can focus on what I want to achieve at the Games.
“Swimming in front of a home crowd will help in London. At the World Cup in Manchester there was a 1,000-strong crowd.
“They gave a massive cheer when you walked out and were so loud you could hear them in the water which really spurs you on.
“Obviously every athlete wants to win the gold. But if someone else swims well and smashes the world record on the day, you can’t do anything about that.
“If I know I have swum my best and come away with a medal I would be really happy with that.”