Chesterfield swimmer aims high after rubbing shoulders with Olympic champion
Promising Chesterfield swimmer Jack Blair has set his sights on representing Great Britain.
A silver medal in the 100m breaststroke at his first ASA National Championships was enough to secure a place at the championships in Glasgow next month - and a shot at qualifying for Rio 2016.
And, while he holds ambitions of one day competing for his country at an Olympic Games, the 17-year-old remains focused on his development in the pool and is already rubbing shoulders with the world’s best out of it.
A chance encounter with Cameron van der Burgh while training in South Africa recently offered Blair an opportunity to meet one of his role models and get one-to-one advice from an Olympic champion.
“We were training at the pool one day and we got the chance to meet Cameron van der Burgh,” he said. “We were at training and looking around wondering if that was him. One of the team managers went over to see if he minded giving us a few tips, which he was happy to do.
“It was really cool. He’s someone I look up to. He is a good role model. His talent in the pool is incredible. I’ve looked at his technique before and tried to take on some tips from that but to get a one-to-one with him and get some technical pointers off him was incredible.
“He watched us do a few lengths and picked a few things out he thought we could improve on, then offered advice on how we could go about doing that. So now in training when I get a spare ten minutes I try and put what he said in to practice.”
Blair and his team-mates endured a tough altitude training schedule with regular swimming sessions, however, still found some time to experience some of the culture, going on a safari and to a lion park.
All following his first experience of competing at nationals.
“I was so happy to get a silver,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to do as well as I did time-wise, I was really surprised to get a British champs’ qualifying time. I’m looking forward to being in the same environment as some of the country’s best swimmers. It’ll be another great experience.”
The former Lady Manners School pupil, from Baslow, trains nine times a week at the new Queen’s Park facility and studies Finance Management and Business at Sheffield College.
He took up swimming after watching his older sister, Hannah, compete from an early age and joined the Derventio eXcel Swim Squad in 2012, when he began early morning training.
“I’ve got a lot of self-motivation to swim,” he said. “To have that prospect (Rio) put in front of me makes me work even harder but I know it’s not going to be easy. The British champs was what I aimed for at nationals.
“I’d like to get to the European Junior Championships next, that’s my aim when I’m at the British champs. To get there and represent my country would be great, anything more would be a bonus. It’s the next step for me.
“When I look at my age and where I’m at in my development, I’m excited by Tokyo 2020. I would be at the perfect age then, in four years’ time. It’s an ambition of mine to get there but for now it’s the Euros.”
His mum, Caroline Blair, admires his determination and commitment to swimming.
“It was a huge achievement at nationals. I’m so proud of him,” she said. “To be in that arena in Glasgow, among top class swimmers, this time around will be hugely beneficial to him and will be something that will stand him in good stead for the future.”
“The Euros would be amazing. It was only his first year at nationals and he seems to have developed quickly over a short period of time. I was jumping up and down because he got a medal. I didn’t know he’d qualified for the trials as well.”