It was a home games with all the focus that comes with being the host falling on Britain’s swimmers in London. For many that proved to be too much, but for Michael Jamieson, it was very much a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man. Instead of looking under pressure he looked like he was having the time of his life, and it showed in the pool.
Earlier in the season, pullbuoy had spoken to Michael as he prepared to get some racing practice at the European Championships in Debrecen as part of a small British team that flew in and out of Hungary as quickly as they could. The aim had been to test his race plan across three rounds of championship competition and in particular his early pace.
“This season my focus has been on developing my front end speed.” he had explained. “Since the World Championships [in 2011] I’ve been trying to force myself to go out faster over the first 100 – if you look at the guys who are going to be challenging this summer for medals [in the 200m], you’ll see that they have the ability to swim sub 60 for the 100.
It was a prescient analysis, and when he himself cracked that 60s barrier in the 100m heats and semi finals at the Games, falling one place shy of the final, it was clear that his pace and his form were in the right place. The 200m heats were negotiated with ease and a big British record for second spot. The semi-finals went likewise, swimming smoothly to another British record and lane 4 for the final.
And so to the medal race. It was cat and mouse. Kosuke Kitajiima went off like the proverbial hare, determined to break the field, but was gradually hauled back as the race reached halfway. Despite his plan to go out faster, Jamieson had swum a controlled first 100m, turning 4th but then applying the pressure down the third 50. At the final turn Daniel Gyurta had the lead, and was looking strong, but as the race approached the last 25m, Jamieson had separated himself from the rest of the field and was bearing down on the Hungarian.
It was clear that Gyurta was hurting and in the final 10 he began to tire as Jamieson kept on coming. The crowd went wild, generating an atmosphere rarely heard a swimming pool in this country, but for all that rousing support for the home favourite, Gyurta just held on for a world record victory. Jamieson in Silver had posted the fourth fastest time ever.
In an interview that proved to be a catalyst for the pullbuoy podcast, this is how the race was recalled the morning after on 5live