Karen: I can achieve glory in Manchester
SWIMMING: Karen Pickering is now just days away from doing battle in the Commonwealth Games.The Ipswich star, who has been impressing on the international swimming circuit for many years, has her heart set on claiming a medal at the Manchester-based world event.
KAREN Pickering is now just days away from doing battle in the Commonwealth Games.
The Ipswich star, who has been impressing on the international swimming circuit for many years, has her heart set on claiming a medal at the Manchester-based world event.
Today, from her holding camp in Loughborough, she spoke confidently to the Evening Star about her hopes for the forthcoming games.
"I'm really excited now," she said. "I'm keen to get the competition under way and the atmosphere is already building among the England team.
"Things are looking good for us and on a personal level I've been swimming well throughout my training programme lately and I feel very strong.
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"I'm confident that I'm in with a really good chance here. The aim is always to go for the medals – and I believe I can achieve that."
Originally from Brighton, Karen made Ipswich her home in the early days of her top-level competitive career.
With coach Dave Champion constantly at her side, she has steadily emerged as one of the favourite female pool contenders in the country.
Already, 30-year-old Karen holds some outstanding records in her field and has recently set some spectacular personal bests in the short course 100 and 200 metre freestyle.
This week she will look to enhance those times and take new triumphs as she prepares for the official opening of the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
Karen has now entered the pre-Games 'holding' process, placing her with the rest of the British swimming team at Loughborough.
"We're spending our last few training days here in Loughborough and working at a considerably reduced pace to what we have been," she said.
"Each day we have to come down to the pool with the rest of the England squad for a stretching routine, but then it's largely up to us how much we decide to put in during pool time."
Karen is particularly enjoying these few build-up days because it will be the first time she has been able to take part in the opening ceremony of a Commonwealth Games.
"I've taken part in several Games throughout my career, but usually the swimming agenda means that I'm unable to be a part of the official ceremony," she explained.
"This time I get to be a part of that buzz and so I feel really privileged – particularly as the Games are here in England."
Unusually for the Commonwealth Games, the swimming will dominate the second half of the event – not beginning until July 30.
Karen will take part in the opening event – the 200 metres freestyle. She will then be back in the pool a day later for the 100 metres and hopefully returning for the 4x100 relay on July 1.
"It's a really packed agenda for me because of the events I'm taking part in," admitted Karen. "We'll have the heat of the 200 in the morning of Tuesday 30th, then the final that evening.
"It's something I'm very prepared for so I don't consider it to be a disadvantage.
"I just have to be aware of when the right time is to push."
This year's Manchester event is England's opportunity to put memories of a disappointing Olympic Games behind them.
In fact, Karen's presence should bode well for England.
She's had good success in the Commonwealths in the past – claiming three silvers in the 1998 Games and two golds, a bronze and two silvers in the Games of 1994.
Ipswich's star is also optimistic about the British chances in general.
"We have a great swimming squad," she said.
"The biggest threat to us is the Australians because they're very capable individuals, but I do think we have something very special as a national team."
LOOK out for updates on Karen's performance at the Commonwealth Games in the Evening Star.