Thu | Feb 25, 2021

Gunning to Return - Amid Olympic uncertainty national swimmer preps for his chance to qualify

Published:Saturday | January 16, 2021 | 7:18 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
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Still waiting to compete after 10 months of inactivity, national swimmer Michael Gunning says that he is fortunate that the latest restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic have not affected his preparations for the 2021 season.

The UK-based national 200m freestyle and butterfly record holder is navigating through a second countrywide lockdown in response to the surge in COVID-19 fatalities and cases, which include a more infectious variant of the virus. The outbreak which started last year resulted in the postponement of the Olympic Games to this summer, with the 26-year-old still chasing a qualification spot. Despite the lack of competitive swimming for nearly a year, Gunning says that he is fortunate that his status as an elite athlete still allows him to train in the pool in Manchester, England, where he is based.

“We were out of water for three or four-months and all of my [water] training just went to training on land, which for swimmers is massive. But we are very lucky that with this lockdown, I’ve still been able to swim because I’ve come under that elite category,” Gunning told The Gleaner. “I can still continue my training. It has been great and I think I’m just trying to take every day as it comes rather than looking too far ahead in the future.”

That future he hopes will be flying the Jamaican flag at the Tokyo Games, which are still for the moment, slated for July. However, the recent return of a state of emergency for Tokyo and its surrounding provinces, present concern for the tournament’s future. Additionally, he says that the new travel restrictions in place have created barriers to participate in any potential meets outside of the UK.

“My problem is that the travel restrictions, when we travel and when we come back to the UK, you are supposed to stay in your house and isolate for 10 days. I think when I look abroad or look at different international meets, I can’t afford to take 10 days off after coming back,” Gunning said. “But within the UK, there are a few meets that we are hoping will carry on because then obviously I will get my shot at competing because it’s been a long time since I have competed now.”

LAND TRAINING

Gunning has been using the hiatus to his advantage, as he has done in his words, the most land training he’s ever done in his life during the initial months away from the pool last year. While preparation in the midst of doubts about the Olympics happening has been concerning, he says he is still determined to capitalise on the opportunity should it present itself.

“None of us expected the Olympics to be postponed so kind of going into this next year is that massive uncertainty of everything. We are swimming so hard; we are sacrificing so much of our life and it might not even happen. I think it is a worry, but ultimately, I’m definitely still in the best shape of my life,” he said.

“I’m really fit on land and when I go into the pool, I can really see that good transition. I am confident but I just really hope and wish that I’m going to get that chance to fly that flag at the Olympic Games.”

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com