Who else could it be? A set of outstanding results during 2008, not least the incredible two Olympic gold medals pocketed in Beijing, led to possibly the easiest decision to date. So perhaps unsurprisingly, the pullbuoy swimmer of the year for 2008 is Rebecca Adlington
The Mansfield born swimmer rocketed herself into the position of being a swimming great with her performances in the 400m and 800m freestyle at the Olympics. The number of British swimmers to win Olympic gold is very small, so to win two in a single games is remarkable and those wins represented the first golds sine Adrian Moorhouse mounted the to of the podium twenty years previously in Seoul.
Adlington has fought back form the doldrums of 2007 when, by her own high standards, she hugely underperformed at the world championships in Melbourne. That meet was especially disappointing given her silver medal winning performance over 800m at the European Championships the previous year. But whatever she took from that set back in Melbourne did the trick as she bounced back in style in Beijing with what must be close to two of the most perfect performances she has ever produced.
And what a set of performances they were. The 400m win was surprising perhaps, although the manner of it spoke volumes for the preparation and resilience of Adlington, as she came from nowhere over the closing 50m to touch out Katie Hoff of the USA for the gold. Certainly the shorter of her two events would not have been seen as the better medal chance despite encouraging trials performances, so taking that win early in the week in Beijing must have lifted confidence and expectations to new levels.
While the 400m win might be seen by some as fortunate, given the odd race tactics of Hoff and Italy’s Federica Pellegrini, fastest in the world on paper, there could be no doubts over Rebecca’s victory in the 800m event. The Nova Centurion swimmer was quite clearly in a class of her own, destroying the field with a superb display of sustained speed which also brought her a new world record and erased, finally, the mark of Janet Evans from the record books. And it wasn’t even close – Aldington’s new mark being seconds under the old record set way back in 1988.
The new profile that being an Olympic champion brings will test Adlington over the coming months. Swimmers are not used to being celebrities in the UK but Rebecca will now find she is hugely recognisable and that she will be constantly in demand. Equally the British public will now expect her to win every time she swims, which inevitably will not be the case, How she can balance those added demands and the increased pressure, while still maintaining the required levels of commitment to her training will dictate how she can build on her outstanding achievements in 2008.