By David Christie
Team GB swimmer Rob Bale is in countdown mode ahead of his Olympic debut on home soil at London 2012.
Bale, who celebrated his 22nd birthday last week, trains at the British Gas Intensive Training Centre (ITC) on campus at the University of Stirling. The Manchester-born swimmer is part of the men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay team, whose event is scheduled for 31 July. Bale works with coach Rob Greenwood at the British Swimming ITC and can’t wait to take to the water.
He said: “Making the Olympic Games team has been a lifetime goal since I started swimming competitively. When it was announced [that] London had won the bid, it was cemented in my head that I wanted to make the team and swim in front of a home crowd at the Olympic Games.
“The fact that so few people actually make it to the Olympics makes it all the more a huge achievement for me, knowing I have met the standard required and also that I am grouped within such a unique group of people for the rest of my life for having achieved this.
“The dream outcome would be to get a medal, but you don’t know how the race will go until the day. Team GB has the fastest guys on the relay that it has had in so many years so that definitely gives us a fighting chance to go and give it our best.
“That, along with the home crowd pushing us on, who knows, it could give us that extra edge to pull through and take a medal at the end of the day.”
Bale is currently with the Team GB squad in Edinburgh as they polish their preparations for the main event. His usual haunt, the National Swimming Academy pool, will instead host US Virgin Islands swimmer Branden Whitehurst for a six-day Pre-Games training camp before he, too, heads for London. He believes the facilities at Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence have played a major role in helping him towards his Olympic goal.
“The facilities at the University of Stirling are exceptional,” added Bale. “I have trained in many pools over the years, but Stirling is second to none. The adjustable pool length enables us to change our training from 25 to 50m and having a dry land room for our warm-up really helps.
“The same goes for the gym facilities and having access to help from the sportscotland institute of sport makes a huge impact on our training, with doctors, physios and nutritionists all at our disposal.
“Sport is obviously held in high regard on campus, and being at the Sports Centre and seeing pictures of past athletes shows that sport really means something here.” Bale is joined in Team GB by Stirling graduates Susan Egelstaff (Badminton), Colin Fleming (Tennis) and Gavin Noble (Triathlon).
Current Sports Studies student Scott McCowan (Boccia) and Psychology and Sports Studies graduate Charlotte Henshaw (Swimming) have been selected for the Paralympics GB team.
Local hero Jim Anderson, who trains at the performance centre for disability swimming at the University, will be competing at an incredible sixth Paralympics, where he will be joined by his coach Kerry Wood, a Stirling graduate and former Commonwealth Games competitor.