Based on his result at last weekend’s Edinburgh International meet, Scottish swimmer Michael Jamieson has just over 4 weeks to get back to form if he hopes to claim a spot on Great Britain’s Rio roster.
The 27 year-old burst onto the international swimming scene in a big way back in 2012 when he earned a silver medal in the 200m breaststroke at the London Olympic Games. Jamieson continued his hot streak with a silver medal at the 2013 Short Course World Championships and was favored to win the same event at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
However, the wins tapered off a tad for Jamieson, as the University of Stirling sensation Ross Murdoch and City of Derby star Adam Peaty have surged to the top of the breaststroking scene. Murdoch snagged the gold away from Jamieson at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where Jamieson settled for silver. Last spring, for the first time since 2009, Jamieson failed to qualify for that year’s major championship meet, the 2015 FINA World Championships.
Jamieson’s own assessment of his outing in Edinburgh, which essentially embodies where his racing has been at the past year or so? He tells The Scotland Herald, “This is rubbish and miles away from where I need to be,” he said. “Especially when nobody’s doing anything special. It’s not like I’m not capable of the times that are kicking around just now. I don’t want to overreact, I’ve still got another month [until the trials] but usually I’m swimming 2:10 at this stage of the season so I’m quite a bit off.”
“I’m just getting a bit fed up swimming like this,” Jamieson continued. “Overall, I still have the belief but I’m not swimming world-class times. All the respect in the world to the guys next to me but I know I should be head and shoulders in front. I don’t know what else I can do and at the moment, I’ve got a long way to go. There’s been a number of times I’ve been holding back the tears over the last couple of years – I don’t want it to finish but it’s hard to take swimming like this. I care so much about it, I don’t want it to be over.”
Jamieson’s 200m breast career-best is the 2:07.43 he put up for the silver in London. He followed that up with similar marks of 2:07.78 at the 2013 British Championships and 2:07.79 in his runner-up swim to Murdoch in 2014. That’s when the sub-2:10 times started to fall off for the Scot, however, as Jamieson clocked a 2:10.91 in 2015 at U.S. Nationals and has only been above that since.
Although Murdoch is 5 years younger than Jamieson, just as a point of comparison, the University of Stirling swimmer’s 200m breaststroke performances have markedly been trending in the opposite direction. Murdoch was in the 2:13-range in 2012 and 2013, only to drop that down significantly to his 2:07.30-winning swim in Glasgow in 2014, to his 2015-best of 2:08.90.
In the hopes of reigniting his career, Jamieson made the move late last year from his longtime club at the University of Bath to the University of Edinburgh, however, his performance last weekend didn’t render the results the Scot had hoped. He finished in 6th place in his signature 200m breaststroke event, clocking a time of 2:16.13. That mark leaves Jamieson well out of the world’s top 25, where leaders such as Germany’s Marco Koch and Japan’s Yasuhiro Koseki are deep beneath the 2:10 threshold.
“I made the move to try and address a few of the issues with my speed but it’s almost gone the opposite way, it’s regressed even more,” he said. “When you change programme, you’ve got to buy into it 100 per cent and I have done, I’m doing absolutely everything I’ve been asked. Sometimes a change works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
“In Bath, I was doing a similar training model and obviously I had some great results but I wanted to change it because I wanted to be the first guy to go 2:06. It was a gamble but I’d rather be going for it then settling for the results I’ve had in the past and I take responsibility for that move. But the physiological adaptations seem to be pretty muted now whereas when I was a bit younger, I could respond to training stimulus really quickly. And we’re running out of time.”
The move to Edinburgh appeared to hold positive potential as its relatively newly restructured program is looking to be a hub of some of the best swimmers in the region. The University added massive recruits last year under head coach Chris Jones, and is already home to Corrie Scott, the 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist in the 50m breaststroke.
Still, Jamieson is determined to make headway and score an appearance at a 2nd Olympic Games. “I’m thinking about this non-stop, every day. I’m talking to as many people as I can and I’ve got all the analysis. My physiological make-up suggests it’s still there. But transferring it into the water just now seems to be the problem.”