Karen's back in shape for Nationals

SWIMMING: With one week to go before the start of the British Nationals, Ipswich swimmer Karen Pickering is back in training after the gruelling competitive demands of the summer.

By Debbie Watson


WITH one week to go before the start of the British Nationals, Ipswich swimmer Karen Pickering is back in training after the gruelling competitive demands of the summer.

Suffolk's very own Commonwealth success story left this year's Games on a high after gaining gold in the 200 metre freestyle. She went straight on to a training camp in Cyprus with fellow members of the British team.

Today 30-year-old Pickering admitted that the physical and mental demands of the last few months had been particularly tough.

She has spent recent days fighting back to fitness after falling ill in the aftermath of a vigorous training and racing schedule.

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"After the Commonwealths I'd gone straight on to Cyprus for a training camp and then off to Athens with a few members of the team – by the time I got back I was just shattered," she said.

"I went home to my parents for a few days and as soon as I started to relax my body just gave up and said 'enough's enough'.

"I ended up with a chest infection which I've had to really fight, but that's hardly surprising given how busy things have been for me. I was just extremely run down."

Pickering is now back in the pool under the watchful eye of coach Dave Champion. She is restricting her training to morning sessions only and hopes that her fitness level will have greatly increased by the time the Nationals start late next week.

She then plans to take a training-free holiday for the latter half of September.

"Right now I'm really just ticking over," she admitted. "It's a hard situation to be in because I'm physically and mentally tired, but I've got one more event to get through before I can take some time-out to recover.

"I'm really not particularly worried about the Nationals," she added. "Obviously I don't like to go anywhere and not perform well, but that said, I'm not concentrating on the Nationals as a specific career goal at the moment."

The Nationals is the one event in which the team is chosen for the European Short Course meet in December.

Pickering has decided she does not wish to swim in the championship and therefore will only be concerned about her individual time and performance at next week's Nationals.

"I didn't take part in the Europeans last year and I was really glad I hadn't," she said. "It makes the year so long and I'd much rather go back into training in October focusing on my goals for 2003 than being interrupted by the Short Course championship.

"My aim will be for the World championships and as qualifying for that begins in April I feel I want to make that my absolute priority."

Still ecstatic about her Commonwealth Games triumph, Pickering insisted that she remains focused on continuing her career and attempting to take an Olympic medal in 2004.

"The Commonwealths were just amazing for me because I'd never won the 200m at that level. It was something I was totally geared towards so the triumph was like a dream coming true."

She added: "That was the ultimate goal for this year, but the big overall goal remains the dream of getting an Olympic medal.

"Everyone knows that that's the one I haven't got, so it's the one I'm still striving towards.

"British swimming is on a real high at the moment because of the Commonwealths and that's good news for me, for other swimmers coming through and for all the coaches who help us to get there.

"I'm a firm believer that British swimmers are going to prove a whole lot more in the near future. We're doing fantastically – but we're not done yet."

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