Adlington ready for more glory

  • Last Updated: July 21 2012, 13:29 BST

It took little more than four minutes for Rebecca Adlington's life to be transformed four years ago in Beijing.

Adlington: Hungry for more success

Already the owner of a European 800 metres freestyle silver from 2006, the then 19-year-old was, though, unknown outside the swimming world.

However, that all changed on the night of August 11, 2008 when she claimed a surprise win in the 400m freestyle to become Great Britain's first Olympic swimming champion since Adrian Moorhouse took gold in the 100m breaststroke in 1988.

Significantly, it was the first gold by a British woman since Anita Lonsbrough in the 200m breaststroke in Rome in 1960.

Team-mate Jo Jackson was third as the pair matched the gold and bronze efforts of Judy Grinham and Margaret Edwards in the 100m backstroke in Melbourne in 1956.

Five days later she became the first British swimmer since Henry Taylor in 1908 to win two gold medals at a single Games with victory in the 800m freestyle.

Not only that but the Mansfield-born teenager sliced more than two seconds off Janet Evans' world record, set in August 1989 when Adlington was 184 days old.

Coach Bill Furniss described it as "one of the great all-time swims - up there with some of Phelps' and Spitz's swims".

Adlington, though, was oblivious to the fuss her achievements had caused back home and said: "Even when my mum and dad were saying, 'You're in the paper' I thought I'd got a little mention in the back, a paragraph or whatever.

"You didn't appreciate anything that was going on back home whereas this time it will be completely different."

Instant fame beckoned with attendant personal appearances. However, such distractions inevitably had their downsides, a lack of endurance training resulting in fourth place in the 800m at the World Championships in Rome in 2009.

This was followed by a tearful seventh place at the European Championships a year later although she returned to win the 400m.

However, Adlington admits such adversity offered valuable, if painful, lessons that she took to heart and emerged triumphant in Shanghai last year where a silver in the 400m was followed by gold in the longer race after a shoot-out with former world champion Lotte Friis.

She said: "The low points I've experienced like the 800 at worlds and Europeans - I think I had to go through those things and I had to experience that and come out and better myself at the Commonwealths and the worlds last year."

Adlington added: "Shanghai was probably the highlight of the last four years. The 800 - I didn't expect that at all especially after how the start of the week went, feeling a bit sluggish.

"That has definitely been the highlight."

Adlington now cuts a confident figure in contrast to the one who, after the initial excitement, shrunk in the spotlight, wanting to return to being 'Little Miss Nobody'.

Instead, at 23, Adlington is a young woman, in touch with herself and confident enough to know what suits her.

With a nod to her agent Rob Woodhouse, 1984 400m individual medley bronze medallist, Adlington said: "With this sort of thing (the press) you talk naturally.

"When I first started doing it everyone used to sit me down and say 'say this, say that' and I'm like I prefer to be natural.

"I am much more comfortable that way - when people give me information I forget it all and get really panicked and I am sat there thinking 'what was I meant to talk about'?

"Whereas it is nicer when you can be much more natural and talk about it and I think that comes with age as well, you just become more comfortable - and that is what I have in my swimming as well."

Adlington may have three of the top four times in the world this year over 800m but only last month she declared she fully expected an unknown to emerge just as she had in Beijing.

Bang on cue came Katie Ledecky who aged just 15 clocked eight minutes 19.78 seconds at the USA trials, a time only Adlington has bettered this year.

Ledecky's PB this time last year was 8mins 35secs and she believes there is more to come.

With confidence belying her tender years, Ledecky repeats the swimmer's mantra that she will concentrate only on herself.

She told Press Association Sport: "I am aware of what Rebecca Adlington has done the past year and last couple of years and some of the other swimmers who have posted some fast times.

"But I am not going to focus on what she is going to do, I am going to focus on my race and what I am working on, what I am trying to do."