MICHAEL Jamieson, long since cast as the male lead in the production, formally started the countdown to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games yesterday.
He turned on a large digital clock at Central Station, and then talked about what he would do for the next 135 days to push the onrushing deadline to the back of his mind.
Jamieson is in uncharted waters. He is the swimmer who held himself together to win an unexpected and in many ways spectacular silver medal at a home Olympics. Yet, so great is the hype building around the Games coming to his home city this summer, and his obvious suitability as the ubiquitous face of something he considers “the biggest event of my life”, it is an ongoing challenge for him to think about anything else.
The football World Cup will help. “A nice distraction”, as he put it yesterday. Not only is Jamieson one of the world’s best breaststroke swimmers but he is a football nut and the son of an Alloa Athletic alumnus who may have gone in that direction himself until he decided that the pool presented him with the chance to make a bigger splash.
Like so many who will have their heads turned by exotic football delights coming to our screens between 12 June and 13 July, Jamieson, who swims the 200 metres in Glasgow on 24 July, will use it to switch off. “I think if the Commonwealth Games hadn’t been at the time it is, I would have liked to have gone over and watched the World Cup,” Jamieson said yesterday, Commonwealth Day. “Obviously training comes first but that will be a nice distraction, especially in the taper and rest period where I’ll have my legs up as much as possible.”
The countdown clock at Central Station refers to the opening ceremony, which Jamieson and other swimmers won’t be able to attend because the nation will expect them to win medals the following day. Gold medal, to be precise – Jamieson and Hannah Miley (400m individual medley) are both thrust into the action in their strongest events on day one of competition, with Robbie Renwick also likely to contend in the 400m freestyle.
Jamieson is relieved that he will not be the only one carrying the burden of expectation that night at Tollcross Park. “We’re sharing the responsibility, I guess, between the three of us,” he said. “But it will be great fun – it’s the biggest event of my career, it’ll be the biggest race of my career, and I wouldn’t have it any other way really.
“I think I’m just trying to take it in my stride. As an athlete you want to be involved in events like this and competing on the big stage, and you have to look at pressure as a huge positive.”
Jamieson, 25, is becoming a dab hand at these promotional commitments, too. The secret is to keep them to a premium, and not interrupt the constantly-spinning wheel of training and competing.
When that clock starts to duck under 100 days, don’t expect to see Jamieson visiting schools and turning things on. He is based in Bath and would be well advised to ape the Andy Murray referendum stance of “don’t ask me because I don’t live here”. Besides, he is a competitor who fears nothing more than letting himself down at Tollcross. Not all distractions are helpful.
“That is tactical as well,” he said when asked about the mapped-out timetable which sees him come and go when the timing is right. “With myself and Glasgow 2014, they’ve been great at helping organise events like this and it’s about trying to use this as a boost for training as well as trying to promote the Games. I don’t want to be based in Glasgow for the full lead-up because it’s nice to be out of that bubble for a period and just focus on the job I’ve got to do.”