Sickening setback for Karen
VIOLENT sickness has robbed Ipswich's Karen Pickering of the chance for individual glory at this year's Olympic Games.Despite months of vigorous training with her coach Dave Champion, the 32-year-old Suffolk star suffered disappointment at the GB trials for this summer's Athens spectacular.
By Debbie Watson
VIOLENT sickness has robbed Ipswich's Karen Pickering of the chance for individual glory at this year's Olympic Games.
Despite months of vigorous training with her coach Dave Champion, the 32-year-old Suffolk star suffered disappointment at the GB trials for this summer's Athens spectacular.
Pickering, who has a brilliant record spanning nearly two decades, lined up alongside the rest of the nation's pool stars for a special Olympic selection event at Sheffield.
The dedicated sportswoman booked her passport to Greece in the squad for two relay events.
But she had been hopeful of securing the chance to swim the 200m freestyle in Athens - and missed out when she fell ill just before the second stage.
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After putting in a spectacular heat for the event - in which she recorded a time of 1.59.88 - Pickering looked highly likely of winning the all-important individual place.
Instead, just one hour before the semi-final, she became violently sick. Although she took part and made the final, the sudden bout of illness left Pickering weakened and she was unable to record a qualifying time in that event.
“I was just really unlucky,” she said. “An hour before the semi-final I was violently sick - and I don't know exactly what it was that caused it.
“It affected that swim and meant that I just wasn't fully recovered when it came to the final.”
She added: “Training at the level I do and expecting so much out of your body means that if you're sick like that and your salt and hydration levels are just ever so slightly off, you can't hope to be at your absolute best.
“It was just terrible timing after all the hard work that had gone in - particularly when I really felt so ready for the trials.”
Determined not to give in to the disappointment, Pickering went on to bid for an individual placing by giving her all in the later 100m freestyle event.
“As each day went by I started to feel a lot better, and under the circumstances, I was pleased with how I went in the 100m final,” she said.
“It went well, but I was still a long way off my best.”
Despite failing to secure the individual swim however, Pickering has gained a place on the Olympic squad for both the 4x200m and 4x100m freestyle relays.
She is one of six women who will go to Athens for each of these events - with the final line-up of four swimmers being decided by the team manager just prior to the event itself.
“I'm really pleased about the relay places,” said Pickering.
“My goal was always to go for the 4 x 200 metre relay, no matter what else happened. So getting into both is brilliant and I think we stand a really good chance of doing well in Athens at these events.”
She added: “I actually don't mind that the relays are now my priority.
“It becomes hard to give a relay your all at a competition when you're also putting so much into individual races.
“In some ways it's no bad thing that I will just be able to concentrate on the relays and not worry about issues of fatigue.”
On the back of Pickering's spectacular efforts in the 2002 Commonwealth Games - in which she took gold in the 200m freestyle - the Ipswich star makes no attempt to deny her disappointment about the latest trials, but she is remaining upbeat.
“I'm disappointed I didn't swim my best at the trials,” she said. “That's the thing with having this level of competitive instinct - you don't like to swim at anything short of your best.”
“You always want to win, but I was just unlucky with the sickness,” she added. “Now I have to focus on the relays and be really glad that I'm part of another Olympic squad.”
Pickering is now taking part in a week's post-trials event at Loughborough with the other selected Olympic swimmers. Then she will go on to the French Nationals where she will take part in a further period of competition.