David Wilkie fears for Jamieson’s Rio chances

SWIMMING legend David Wilkie fears Michael Jamieson will struggle to make next summer’s Rio Olympics and may never bounce back from last year’s Commonwealth Games heartache.
David Wilkie is back in Glasgow to promote the IPC swimming championships at Tollcross later this month. Picture: Jeff HolmesDavid Wilkie is back in Glasgow to promote the IPC swimming championships at Tollcross later this month. Picture: Jeff Holmes
David Wilkie is back in Glasgow to promote the IPC swimming championships at Tollcross later this month. Picture: Jeff Holmes

Jamieson was one of the poster boys of Glasgow 2014, having won 200 metres breaststroke silver in London two years previously. However, he was pipped to gold by fellow Scot Ross Murdoch in his favourite event and failed to make the final of the 100m.

The 26-year-old Glaswegian did chalk up a victory over Murdoch, who is five years his junior, in the Scottish nationals last week, but has failed to make the Great Britain team for the world championships in Kazan, Russia, later this summer.

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Wilkie, the 200m breaststroke Olympic champion from Montreal 1976, was in Glasgow yesterday to promote the upcoming IPC swimming championships at Tollcross and said he felt Jamieson has a fight on his hands even to be in Rio, never mind competing for another medal.

“It’s four years on from when he won that Olympic silver,” said Wilkie. “Being a romantic I’d love him to bounce back, because he had a dismal Commonwealth Games. That shot him mentally, he was a wreck after it and just did not believe it. That’s the trouble if you build yourself up and expect to just turn up, swim four lengths and they’re going to hang a gold medal around your neck. Sport is cruel, it doesn’t work like that. And suddenly there’s a new kid on the block called Murdoch.

“My expectation would be that Jamieson is going to have a tough time getting into that [GB] team. He didn’t make the world championships this year and there are a lot of good swimmers around. Swimming is a pretty young sport. At 22 you’re nearly over the hill.”

The 61-year-old, whose world record Montreal glory swim was Britain’s first gold medal in the pool for 16 years and prevented an American clean sweep of the men’s events, was happy to be back in Glasgow almost a year on from those golden games last summer.

“The Commonwealth Games last year were absolutely fantastic,” he said. “I was up for the opening ceremony and did some work for the BBC at the swimming, and it’s good to be back to promote the IPC World Championships. It’s great that it’s in Glasgow, which is attracting big events.

“I suppose if you build a big 50-metre swimming pool you want fill it up and use it. The public at the Commonwealth Games were fantastic. And I’m sure they’ll support this event too and let’s hope it’s a roaring success.”

Taking place from 13-19 July, the IPC event, which will host the cream of the world’s para-swimmers, including superstars like Ellie Simmonds, is the latest big swimming event to be hosted at Tollcross, with the able-bodied European Championships heading here in 2017.

Wilkie is delighted to see such competitions coming to Scotland, but is suspicious of that buzzword “legacy”.

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“We’ve tended to overuse that word,” said the only man to have held British, American, Commonwealth, European, world and Olympic titles at the same time. “It’s sort of government bull**** really. If you’re spending £8 billion on an Olympics or £2bn on a Commonwealth Games, there’s got to be a payback. And there is a payback in that through success you generate interest in sport. If kids are watching people like Ross Murdoch and Hannah Miley, for example, they’re going to say ‘mum, I want to go and try swimming’. So the legacy is attracting kids to sport and making sure once they are in that sport that they are supported.

“I remember way back in 1976, when I came back from the Olympic Games as a gold medal winner, they were talking about every school that was built in Scotland was going to have a 25-metre swimming pool in it. They soon forgot that idea. We’ve been having talk of legacies for years and years.”

Wilkie was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Aberdonian parents but returned to Scotland to attend Daniel Stewart’s College in Edinburgh and joined the famous Warrender Baths Club. After a breakthrough bronze as a 16-year-old at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in his home city, he went on to win silver at the 1972 in the Munich Olympics and more golds followed at the Christchurch Commonwealth Games two years later.

This month is the 40th anniversary of his winning 100m and 200m breaststroke golds at the 1975 world championships in Cali, Colombia, which he reflected yesterday was an important stepping stone to his defining moment in Montreal a year later, when he also won silver in the 100m.

Swimming was one of the few disappointments for Great Britain amid the general euphoria of London 2012 and Wilkie thinks Rio will be another tough Games for the British team.

He said: “We’ve got some really good breaststroke swimmers in Britain with Adam Peaty, Ross Murdoch, and Jamieson is still around.

“But the Olympics is always a tough event and, in 2012, we didn’t do so well. We invested £20m in that team so it was surprising we only came out with two bronzes and a silver. Rio is going to be tough. Can we win a gold? We probably can. Will we win a gold? We probably will. But will we get that depth [of medals] in swimming? I don’t know if we can.”

“On paper, Ross Murdoch would be the one you would expect to get close to winning a gold medal. But every event is tough, they don’t just hand gold medals out. Swimming is such a worldwide sport, so many countries participate at a very high level – the Americans, Australians, Germans, Italians, French and Chinese. They all swim. It’s not like some sports, for instance cycling or canoeing or rowing, where only a few countries are at a top level.”

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Scott Quin is one of the Scottish stars who will be part of the GB team when the IPC world championships get under way a week on Monday.

The 25-year-old from Loanhead in Midlothian is the current SB14 100m and 200m breaststroke British record holder and can’t wait to perform in front of a home crowd.

“Unfortunately, my main event wasn’t in the Commonwealth Games last year and the other category I tried for I missed out by four tenths of a second,” he explained. “So it will be great to experience the crowd in Glasgow.

“The last year has been really impressive for me, just making gains towards where my long-term goals are. The short-term aims are all on track. These world championships are the main event on my calendar this year. But Rio next year [for the Paralympics] is very much on my mind.”

Quin added: “Swimming has brought enjoyment to my life.

“I’ve always been a bubbly, happy and positive person. In some ways, swimming is an unsociable sport because you are just head in the water a lot of the time, but the bonds you have with the other swimmers is like having a new family.”

l The IPC World Championships take place at Glasgow’s Tollcross International Swimming Centre from 13-19 July. Tickets priced £10/£15 for adults and free for under-16s are on general sale and can be bought online at ticketmaster.co.uk/glasgow2015