Joanne Jackson was one of the youngest on the GB swimming team when she made her Olympic debut in Athens aged just 17. Fast forward eight years and she’s now one of the oldest, and is hoping those years of experience, filled with both highs and lows, will make the difference in London come July.
Here, the Olympic 400m freestyle bronze medallist tells us more about her journey to the capital, and what it will mean to compete at a home Olympics this summer.
It’s been a rollercoaster few years but how have the last few months been for you?
With swimming we’re lucky because our trials are quite early on – they’re in March so we get the chance to qualify really early. It was such a relief to qualify – it’s been an up and down few years so this last year it’s been great to qualify for my third Olympics and in my main event. It puts everything else into perspective and now it’s just a case of knuckling down and getting all the hard work in to look forward to going to the Olympics.
What was it like to swim in the Aquatics Centre in front of a home crowd?
It’s such an incredible place – the pool is amazing. It’s very exciting that when we go next time everything will be finished. It was great to have that home support but there was actually only 3,000 people there, when the Olympics come around and it’s filled with 17,000-18,000 people it’s going to be a bit different! We’re looking forward to seeing how that crowd will react.
It’ll be the third time you’ll get to represent your country at the Olympics – this time on home soil. Is that the pinnacle so far?
Yes definitely. You never know when you’re growing up whether there’s ever going to be a home Olympics, so the fact that it’s come around while I’m still swimming is fantastic.
You claimed bronze in Beijing, the aim is obviously to go even better in London?
It’s going to be a fantastic meet – year after year the British team are doing really well and it’s such an exciting time for us. I think we’re just growing as a team so it’s going to be fantastic when we get there and get to race the rest of the world. Obviously four years ago to get a medal was absolutely fantastic and leading into London it just seems to be a bigger deal because it’s at home. Hopefully I can go there and do Team GB proud.
You’ve struggled with illness and changed your coach fairly recently. Have those difficulties spurred you on?
Yes definitely. I had a few years where I had some illnesses when I couldn’t really train and compete at the level I wanted to. It was so frustrating and I found it really hard because I’d been doing so well and it came to nothing. The fact that things are back to normal is fantastic for me, it’s making me excited about going to the Games knowing that I’ve had a full cycle of training that’s gone really well.
Let’s talk competition – who have you got your eye on at the moment?
Obviously there’s Becky [Adlington] – she’s racing really well at the moment. You’ve also got Kylie Palmer from Australia who did really well at the Worlds last year and Federica Pellegrini from Italy who’s the world record holder so there’s a lot of tough competition but that makes it more exciting. That’s what you’re training for, to go and beat them.
Are you hoping having a home Games will promote the sport and encourage girls to get involved with swimming?
Yes definitely, but not even just in swimming, in sport in general. Especially girls when they’re at a younger age they might not want to get involved in sport because they don’t always see it as a cool thing to do, but it’s great to keep fit and healthy and you make loads of friends along the way. I think taking part in sport as a child is a massive thing and it’s not just younger people – it’s great that adults want to get involved in sport. It definitely makes for a healthier and fitter nation.
I’d say just take things gradually – you don’t want to rush into things and go full steam ahead. If you’ve got some friends that want to join in, go to a club together and really enjoy it. Take it step by step and then you never know what you can achieve.
Jessica Whittington, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
Cirrus Healthcare is a proud sponsor of Joanne Jackson, who uses Cirrus Healthcare’s BioEars™ and ClearEars™ products. More information on the products can be found at www.cirrushealthcare.co.uk.