Tue | May 26, 2020

Michael Gunning targets Olympics

Published:Monday | August 12, 2019 | 12:07 AMDaniel Wheeler/Gleaner Writer

Michael Gunning’s summer has ended with a new lease on his competitive life. Despite not getting the results that he desired in the Pan American Games, the Jamaican swimmer is in a more relaxed and positive mood than he was a month ago.

When he travelled to Gwangju, South Korea, for the FINA World Championships last month, the expectations he placed on himself cost him to perform vastly below his ability.

“I put so much pressure on myself in my main event at Worlds as I wanted to prove myself, but it made my swim too stiff and I bottled it,” Gunning reflected.

He placed ninth in his pet event, the 200m butterfly, with his time nowhere near good enough to advance to the semi-finals. That result summed up his World Championship campaign, as he also failed to make the 200m freestyle semi-finals despite finishing third in his heat.

Michael placed second and fourth

So when the Pan American Games started, the national record holder decided to release the mental restraints of his own expectations and simply enjoy the experience in Peru. Although he did not advance to the main final of the 200m freestyle or the 200m butterfly, he placed second in the freestyle B final and fourth in the butterfly B final.

“I relaxed more and had fun at the Pan American Games, and I took a second off my 200m butterfly and I got a personal best in my 200 individual medley. So as hard as it is, I’m going to try and enjoy the journey next year as I normally swim well with no pressure,” said Gunning.

Swimming well with no pressure may be a challenge considering that next year Gunning will be hoping to qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo. He also acknowledged that the high level of competition in the sport currently has increased the ante for all athletes.

“You only have to see the several world records that were broken to realise how tough the world of swimming is. I was so shocked to see Michael Phelps’ record be broken, as no one thought it was possible,” he said.

The record in question is the 200m butterfly, which is now claimed by 19-year-old Hungarian Kristof Milak, who lowered the 10-year mark by eight-tenths of a second, set in 2009 in Rome by swimming legend Phelps. Milak clocked 1:50.73, beating Phelps’ 1:51.51. Caeleb Dressel, 22, also broke Phelps’ records in the 100m butterfly that same week, with a time of 49.50, topping the 49.82 Phelps also swam in Rome in 2009.

Gunning will now use the time off to recover and to spend with his family before preparing himself for the business of Olympic qualifying in September; and he is eager to make sure his does all he can to get to Tokyo.

“I’m more motivated than ever to improve my performances over the next year. I have the Olympic B selection standards in my events, but I’m aiming to top that and see how far I can push myself,” he said.