Swimming: Serious stuff starts now for Craig Benson
Craig Benson was the youngest Team GB swimmer at this summer’s Olympic Games. And having revelled in the atmosphere and soaked up the experience, the Warrender teenager is now even more ambitious and more determined to make it to the highest height of the sport. In other words, London was just for starters.
The 18-year-old has deferred the start of his finance and accountancy course until next year so he can concentrate on next summer’s World Championships in Barcelona and he has no fears in stating his goals for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. “Glasgow is going to be huge,” said the Livingston youngster. “I am so lucky. I had a home Olympics and now a home Commonwealth Games. What more could you ask for?
“At the Commonwealth Games, I’ll be aiming for gold in the 100m breaststroke. It’s going to be tough, because the Olympic champion is a South African [Cameron van der Burgh] and the silver medallist [Christian Sprenger] was from Australia. And, of course, there’s also Michael Jamieson.”
In an Olympic Games that was slightly disappointing for British swimming, Glasgow-born Jamieson stood out with his British record and silver medal in the 200m breaststroke and Benson admitted: “I felt so proud for Great Britain and Scotland when I saw MJ standing on the podium.”
Benson was another who certainly didn’t let the side down in London. He bettered his own Scottish record in the heats of the 100m breaststroke and finished 14th overall. But, come 2016, he wants it to be the one with the gong hanging round in his neck, the posy of flowers in his hand and maybe even God Save the Queen resounding around the pool.
“I should be at my peak in Rio and I definitely want to try and get a medal. Competing in London was amazing and I’ve never known anything like it,” continued Benson. “But I wasn’t expected to get a medal. In Brazil, it won’t be totally new. I’ve learned from my first Olympic experience and, next time, I’ll be ready to challenge the very best.”
Following a well-deserved US holiday with his older brother, Andrew, that was split between the delights of New York and Orlando in Florida, Benson has already started the next four-year Olympic cycle under the guidance of his long-time coach, Laurel Bailey, and a new addition to the Warrender camp, Kris Gilchrist.
Gilchrist competed in the breaststroke in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was heartbroken not to make the London line-up. But the former City of Edinburgh swimmer is already piling his knowledge and know-how back into the sport he loves. And Benson is grateful. “Kris is now an assistant coach at the club and it is great to have him on poolside” said the West Lothian lad who qualified for the Olympics while he was still a pupil at James Young High School in Livingston.
“I had just over five weeks break after London but now I am back in serious training again. There is so much I can improve, particularly my starts and turns. Lots of little things that will all take fractions of my times. It’s actually quite exciting to know there is so much that can get better.
“London was a great inspiration and now I’m happy to be back at Warrender and working really hard. I am still living at home in Livingston and that’s why I’ve deferred my university place. I think it would have been too much trying to fit in training, travelling and studying. But the plan is to move into the city and start at Edinburgh in 2013.”
For Benson, the London Olympics was an unexpected bonus and an experience that he sums up best as “great fun”. Come Rio 2016, and it will be rather more serious. By then, he hopes to be a Commonwealth Games medallist and one of Team GB’s leading podium prospects. Its going to be four years of intensity and hard work. But he’s more than willing to make the sacrifices.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West