There’s no doubt that British breaststroke is on a high at the moment, but its very easy to take a blinkered view and concentrate on the 100m and 50m swimmers, who have produced some excellent performances this year. Look beyond the sprinters however and you will find a Scotsman quietly preparing for an assault on the 200m breaststroke event in Barcelona.
City of Edinburgh’s Ian Edmond is not a newcomer to the international breaststroke scene, having burst through in the build up to the last World Championships when he became the man to erase the great David Wilkie from the Scottish record books for the 200m breaststroke. Indeed that swim of 2:12.70 at the 2001 Scottish Nationals remained his personal best until this season when, with a winter under a different training regime behind him, Edmond took another big step forward, posting a time within a whisker of Nick Gillingham’s British Record, with 2:11.56. “It was important for me to get back on track after a very disappointing year last year” he said of his performances at the April trials, “I had to get myself swimming well and setting best times again, so I was delighted to swim that fast”
In terms of breaking the British Record, the quietly spoken Edmond doesn’t seem to be under any pressure having moved so close to one of Britain’s best ever swimmers. “I’ve had almost the exact same experience before with Wilkie’s Scottish record and a lot more was made of that at the time by the press than me! Obviously I’d have liked to have got Nick’s record in Sheffield but I was just happy to be swimming well again more than worrying about it.” Not that it’s completely out of his mind: “Ultimately if I’m going to achieve what I want to, the record will come along sometime, I’m sure”
2002 was indeed poor by Edmond’s own standards. “I kept getting ill, which disrupted my training a lot and that’s part of the reason I didn’t swim well at the Commonwealth Games.” As a result changes were made to make sure that there wasn’t a reoccurrence this year, but they weren’t always in the pool. “One of the biggest things I’ve changed is that I get more sleep!” he admits. “Basically the sports science team decided I simply wasn’t sleeping enough, which obviously affects everything else. I’ve also lowered the intensity slightly of what I’m doing, so I do more steady stuff and less of the really hard work, which is better suited to the 200 event.”
Some of that steady training time has been spent working with Hungarian breaststroke guru Josef Nagy. “Breaststroke is a very technical stroke and I find that I go through phases where I just lose it a bit, so I’ve tried a couple of new things such as working with Josef. He changed a couple of things with my stroke just to fine tune what I’m doing”
It was his technique that led to heartache in Fukuoka for Edmond, when having thought he had qualified for the final of the 200m, he was disqualified in the semi for a butterfly kick off the wall. “I have altered my technique slightly since last time to make sure it never happens again and it’s something that Bill [Sweetenham] is always onto us breaststrokers about, to make sure we aren’t doing anything illegal.”
Based on that experience, his aim for this year’s championships is simple. “I just want to make sure I get into the final. From there I’ll look to get in the race and then get out of it whatever I can.” Despite such talk about Barcelona, the bigger picture never fades: “The main aim is of course Athens next year, so this summer is really all about moving forward to that.” A World Championship medal would no doubt be a good way of showing that progression.