Olympic silver medallist Michael Jamieson is determined to put the disappointment of the Commonwealth Games behind him as he embarks on a full training regime for this year’s World Championships and next year’s Olympic Games. Chris Price caught up with him at the beautiful Haymarket Hotel in London where he was taking a very short break to help launch Speedo’s new Fastskin LZR Racer X competition suit
GB: What’s so great about the new Speedo LZR Racer suit?
MJ: You can really feel the difference with this dual fabric construction. It feels like a tapered compression and latches on the bottom (on the thigh). It’s important when coming off explosive movements like the turning phase or the dive start that these bits are secure so the position of the suit doesn’t change as you compete. Also just the element of putting on a racing suit helps to change your attitude psychologically to one that’s ready to swim fast because you have a garment on that’s tailored for fast swimming. I try to have a new suit for each of the major events, just to have that extra psychological edge. But that’s really a tactical thing. During hard training over the season I prefer to wear a suit that’s been worn in for a few races so there’s a bit more give in it.
Speedo talks about the ‘feel’ of the suit. How important is that?
I think it’s more important on breaststroke than any other stroke because breaststroke is such a unique movement, it’s not mirrored in anything else. For me, so much of the movement comes from my hips so it’s important that I can feel where my hips and gluteals sit in the water because in breaststroke that is your engine really. It’s the timing and power you generate through the leg kick. Freestyle and backstroke, for example, is more restricted in terms of leg movement so the feel of the suit is not as important. But in breaststroke you are very aware of how the suit feels and where there are elements of compression (in the fabric).
Speaking of swimming fast how is the training going?
Training is going really well. I’ve changed a few things this season. Ultimately I’m always going to be a 200m Breaststroker – that’s my physiological make up – but my areas to improve in that event are through my front end speed which means basically being able to swim faster over the first half of the race, but with the same level of efficiency. Hopefully this suit will play a part in that because with the compression it makes you feel like you are almost delaying the onset of fatigue which is exactly what I need to perform the second half of the race.
How much training are you doing at the moment?
I do 10 sessions a week in the pool as I have done for some time, plus two land training. I’m currently living and training at Millfield School because the pool I normally train at in Bath is closed for refurbishment until April. I was commuting from Bath to Millfield for a while but it takes quite a long time to get there and it was difficult managing the driving and the training. The training includes two interval sessions where I try to replicate as close to race speed as I can, two recovery sessions where I stretch out and two conditioning sessions which are just about maintaining the levels of fitness. There are also another few sessions about improving levels of fitness – some real hard heart-rate sessions – and some where I do some breaststroke drills and some technique work around that.
Above: Michael Jamieson relaxing at the launch of the Speedo Fastskin LZR Racer X competition suit.
Which championships have you got coming up this year?
The World Championships in August is the main target of the year and the trials for those are in the Olympic pool in the middle of April. The standard of British Swimming during the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships has rocketed and we are one of the strongest nations in the world now so it’s no longer a given just to turn up to the British Nationals and have a place on the team. For my event in particular you are going to have to be ranked in the top three in the world just to get a selection place in the team so that obviously puts a lot more pressure on the qualification process. But the flipside is that if you do make the British team you are expected to at least make the final and hopefully for me to get on the podium again.
Are you looking beyond the World Champs to the Olympic games on Rio in 2016?
Of course. The Olympic games are obviously the pinnacle of our sport. I had a great result in London but it’s so difficult to maintain that level of performance for four years because the way the sport is advancing due to training techniques and suit development things move on so quickly. Even in 12 months things can change so much. I’ve had a solid few years. There are always results which I’d have like to have been better, but I’ve managed to maintain my ranking of being in the top three in the world over the last few years and I need to hold on to and cement that position and hopefully come away with another medal.
Are you going to just specialise in the 200m for the World Championships or are you going to continue with the 100m too?
Yes I’m going to carry on doing the 100m. I think I got lucky for a few years when Britain was lacking a sprinter and I got to a level where I was able to challenge in that. Also the event globally wasn’t as strong as it is now. I need to keep working on the 100 to try to improve it, but only to help the 200 really. I’m never going to win a medal in Rio in the 100 so the 200 has to be main focus. As you get older you come into your own individual events a bit more.
What do you see as the main differences between the 100m and 200m, apart from distance obviously!
Really they are completely different types of events. The 200 is about continually increasing fitness levels whereas the 100 is really just a sprint. Five or ten years ago, the guys competing in the 100 would be the same as for the 200, whereas now it’s not the case at all. There’s only maybe one or two guys who would make an international 100 and 200m final so that shows how specialised the sport is becoming. It’s becoming more like track athletics where you don’t see people doubling up in events that much. That’s the way swimming is going but there’s just been a bit of a delay in catching up because training theories are changing all the time.
Do you think the future for British Swimming is brighter since London 2012 which was overall a disappointment – apart from yours and Becky’s medals, of course?
Yes definitely. There’s no doubt the team now is stronger than it ever has been. I think this is an important year – more so than last year because of the pressures of competing at World and Olympic level and the way the other nations step up at the Olympic Games. It’s about being able to do step up on the world stage. The 200m Breastroke has to be one of the most competitive events because of the number of people who are so close to world marks. It makes for a much more exciting race because on paper there are five or six guys who are capable of breaking a world record. Daniel Gyurta has been unbeaten for four or five years now but the chasing pack behind him is growing and getting closer. I think this could be the season where his run comes to an end.
How did you feel after the defeat at the Commonwealth Games. You looked absolutely gutted?
I was. That was probably the biggest event in my career just because of the position I was in. I was in a unique spot because there was no one else from Glasgow who got a medal in London and who was taking part in the Commonwealth Games. The bottom line is that he (Ross Murdoch) was a better swimmer on the day but I had a real recurring injury last year that was just causing too much time out of the pool. That’s part and parcel of the sport. Sometimes you can get a bit unfortunate with the timing and the last few years I’ve had a few injuries creep up at the wrong time and there’s not a lot you can do about it.
And has your training changed as a result of the disappointment?
Yes it has. Last year the mistake I made was keeping the same training model as I had for Barcelona (2013 World Championships) when I had a shoulder injury. I am getting a bit older now and I am a bit more fragile and I just can’t train the way I used to train. Your training needs to change as you get a bit older and the changes I’ve made now should have happened last year. But it’s kind of done and dusted now. I feel better for the change and I’m training now at a much higher intensity and more consistently which is the most important thing.
You’ve said you are going to retire after the Olympic Games in Rio. Have you thought about what you are going to do afterwards?
Not really. The first thing I’m going to do is go travelling for a year and make up for lost time, just spending as much time as possible with my friends. Guys who I haven’t seen in years. I’ve got three of my best mates who live in Dubai now and I’ve only seen them twice in the last three years. As you get a bit older it’s those things that take their toll rather than the training itself. I don’t think I’m going to fall apart after the next Olympics. The way swimming is changing you can afford to go a lot longer but swimming is all about the Olympics for me and I think 32 (the age I’ll be in 2020) is pushing it.
Never say never. After all Michael Phelps has returned to the pool.
Well he’s not going to be as dominant as he was, but the amount he’s done for the sport is incredible. I completely understand why he missed it and why he wants to come back but for me I want to go out on top next year and go and enjoy things after that.