Teenage swimmer returns to pool after lockdown to pursue Olympic dream
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
An Ipswich teenage swimmer who rises at 4.20am for training is back in pool - after refusing to let the coronavirus crisis knock his Olympic dreams off course.
Sam Perkins has wanted to be an athlete since he was at primary school, when he drew a picture of himself with an Olympic gold medal round his neck during a day when children were encouraged to "be the best you can be".
Since then, he has totted up more than 100 medals in various contests around the country and is ranked among one of the country's best young swimmers.
His dedication is shown by the fact he wakes up every day at 4.20am, so he can fit in a gruelling 1hr 45min workout at Ipswich's Crown Pools before starting his studies at Copleston Sixth Form.
But the Team Ipswich Swimming member said he had "never had a setback this big" after Covid-19 meant swimming pools were shut, hampering competitors' ability to train.
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While he has done much land-based training over the past year, including using gym equipment at his grandparents' house, nothing can substitute for training in the pool.
Until lockdown, Sam had been swimming every day since he was at primary school.
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So he is delighted to be back training at Crown Pools, even if it does hitting the water as early as 5.15am - after a breakfast of scotch pancakes first.
"I can't lie, it's taken a heavy toll," Sam said of the Covid crisis.
"If I said I was as fit as I was before, I'd be lying. No-one is even going to be at 50% of the level they were before.
"It has been challenging, especially in the morning when it's quite cold, you wake and you realise you miss your bed."
However, he is determined that while there might be "one step back", there will be "lots of steps forward".
Sam is not throwing himself in the deep end just yet - starting with some easy sets, before building up the intensity of his training.
He added: "For me, I just know it will take some extra training to get back to where I was.
"Every human has this innate desire to want things.
"If you put your mind to it and work hard enough, you can get over these mental barriers that contribute to holding you back.
"Your mind is the most important thing. It can hold you back or push you forward.
"When you struggle, it just shows how much something means to you."
Sam plans to take a couple of years out after his A-levels out to focus on swimming.
He hopes to win a scholarship to university in America to study sports psychology, alongside swimming training.
His goal is to reach the Olympics in 2024 or 2028.