Chesterfield swimmer Ben Harkin shrugged off illness to break one European and seven British records at the ASA National Masters and Seniors Championships 2014.
The 36-year-old suffered a chest infection in the two months leading up to the championships before a stomach bug struck on the week of competition, threatening to undo all his hard work in the pool over the year.
But an energy-fueled breakfast consisting of four weetabix and a couple of strong coffees - and a little encouragement from his patient partner, Katie - proved to be the winning formula at a meet which will live long in the memory.
Harkin’s performances blew his competitors out of the water on his way to eight golds at the event at Ponds Forge in the 100m IM, 50m back, 100m front, 100m fly, 50m front, 50m fly, 50m breaststroke and 200m IM.
A time of 26.51 in the 50m back was enough to break British and European masters’ records.
“It was a great feeling,” he said. “I had really worked on specific race elements for this race, so I felt like the hard work had paid off.”
His European time has since been beaten but Harkin doesn’t mind.
“When I got back swimming 18 months ago, I would never have thought of getting anywhere near British, European or World records was even possible,” he added.
Harkin enjoyed swimming competitively growing up but hadn’t swam for 15 years before he made contact with Chesterfield Swimming Club in 2013, after Katie had nonchalantly suggested he made a return to the water.
“I swam competitively from the ages ten to 18,” he said. “I was a hyper kid and my parents decided that sports were the way to go.
“I tried lots of different sports but swimming was the one that stuck. I liked swimming as it was down to me and what I could do.
“I was not that keen to swim again competitvely, nor did I think I could swim that fast, but Katie mentioned it a few times and I got in contact with Chesterfield Swimming Club. The masters coach there at the time was Ian Hicks and he was really supportive and positive for getting back in to it,” he said.
“That was 18 months ago and I am really glad Katie suggested it, although I am not sure she is so happy with me getting up for early morning training at 4.15am!”
He juggles swimming with working at the University of Sheffield as a researcher in psychology, where he is currently investigating the psychological underpinnings of debt. And highlighted his aspirations for 2015.
“The main goal is European Long Course Championships in 2016. So this year I really want to work on my weakness, basically swimming faster over some longer distances in training and competition.
“The main aspiration is to make sure I keep enjoying swimming with Chesterfield Swimming Club as much as I have,” he added.