Pool ace Pickering eyes Olympic glory
IPSWICH swimming ace Karen Pickering has vowed to continue competing internationally until the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.The Ipswich Swimming club veteran said she will not be retiring from the world swimming scene, despite being just two months away from her 30th birthday and one of the country's most experienced internationals.
By Nicola Markwell
IPSWICH swimming ace Karen Pickering has vowed to continue competing internationally until the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
The Ipswich Swimming club veteran said she will not be retiring from the world swimming scene, despite being just two months away from her 30th birthday and one of the country's most experienced internationals.
"I am going to carry on until Athens," she said. "My swimming is improving all the time at the moment, and it's so good to be part of the British team – I'd be stupid to give it up."
Pickering took a historic gold medal in the summer's World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan with the 4x200m relay team, and now an Olympic medal is the only one which she hasn't won in her distinguished career.
"Even if I am only in the relay team for Athens I can still win a medal," she said.
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"I've never won an Olympic medal and that would be a wonderful way to end my career."
Japan earlier this year saw Pickering, along with Karen Legg, Nicola Jackson and Janine Belton, win the first World Championship gold medal for Britain for more than 25 years, albeit in rather strange fashion.
The team had originally come third in the 4x200m final, smashing the British record in the process. However, the first-placed Australians were disqualified for jumping into the pool to celebrate before the race had finished, bumping the British squad into second position.
Then, in another bizarre twist, the American squad who were then in first place got knocked out for an illegal changeover, and the British had taken gold. Or so they thought.
"It was incredible when we were first told we had won, but then someone appealed on behalf of the US team and we had to wait overnight to find out whether it was going to be taken away from us again.
"That was really tough and did take the edge off things slightly," said Pickering.
The following day they were told the good news, the gold was theirs.
"It was relief more than anything, when it was finally confirmed. It was all quite unbelievable though, really. The Americans losing out because of a faulty changeover was fair enough, but the Australians lost the gold simply because of a moment of stupidity.
"And they were on a promise of $50,000 each if they won the gold – they were absolutely gutted that they missed out."
Now it is back to the domestic swimming scene for Karen, as she prepares to compete in the first round of the London Speedo League competition this weekend.
"It will be my first race of the season for Ipswich so I am really looking forward to it," she said.
"It may not be a huge event on the international scene, but it's very important for the club and there is a different kind of pressure on me because all the younger members expect me to win – I can't slip up."
Pickering will be competing in the 200m individual medley, the 100m butterfly and two relays at the competition, which is being held in Feltham, Middlesex on Saturday.