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Rory Dickson’s revealing how the seeds of his storming performances at the British Swimming Championships were sowed a year and a half ago, as he reflects on five days rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest stars in the sport.
 
The 17-year-old reached two Junior Finals at Tollcross on his way to a remarkable clean sweep of PBs in his seven races.
 
Brit Champ Rory
“It was really hard to make finals in the heats in the morning,” he says.
 
“You had to PB and bring your ‘A’ game every time, and even then, there was no guarantee you were going to get through. Then at night you had to try to go harder again, and that’s so different to what I’m used to at competitions like SNAGS. It’s such a different ball-game.”
 
Head Coach, Jess Wilkie, agrees with his assessment: “Our preparation for the meet was fantastic, making the decision not to back off at SNAGS and swim through it, and it’s worked really well.
 
“You can never be sure the first time taking a swimmer into a big meet how it’s going to go,” she reflects, “and I’m pleased we managed to get Rory in a good place and ready to race fast.
 
“We changed the training sessions to put a lot of quality work into the mornings so that when he did race, he was ready to set a fast time early on. 
 
“A lot of the guys do their fast work in the evenings to prepare for finals, but we knew going into the meet that he was going to have to set PBs to get into finals, and Rory managed to do that twice.”
 
Brit Champ Rory startAfter starting the meet with a new PB of 1:06.5 in the 100m breaststroke Rory aced the 50m sprint the next day, breaking the 30 second barrier to win a place in the three finals that night, alongside a certain Adam Peaty.
 
50m races are always closely fought, and a flying start saw him challenging for the lead in an outside lane, coming home 4th, and setting a new record for himself in the event.
 
“I was pretty pleased with my performance, I thought my breaststroke was looking very good,” he says. “Watching it on video afterwards I could see its moved on a lot and I’ve got to thank our land training coach, Sheena for all the flexibility work she started me doing about 18 months ago. You can see in the footage how it has benefitted my stroke, and it just goes to show how long these things take.
 
“Racing against those guys and seeing them on poolside was pretty amazing, especially when Adam Peaty wanders into the call room for the 50m breaststroke final – he’s not as tall as you think he is but his presence is pretty daunting, you can tell he means business.”
 
Jess agrees it was invaluable experience for Rory.
 
Brit Champ Jess and Rory“The pressure you can be under in that call room when you’re trying to qualify for the summer meet is pretty big,” she emphasises. “For Rory to watch that and see what they’re doing and get a feel for what it’s like to be a senior swimmer will put him in a good place for next season.
 
“It was great for him to have that level of competition there, and I think he needs that. It’s a big step up from West District.  Even at SNAGS you can go slow and make a final but at the British there’s no hiding place. It also gives him a bit of a reality check to show that it’s not going to come easy and you’ve got to push when you’re up against boys from across Britain.
 
“But Rory showed over the week that he’s up there with them and really pushing for places and it’s great to see.”
 
One of those reality checks came the next day, with the 400m IM. It was another PB, but not by enough to make the finals, missing out by less than half a second.
 
“I was pretty disappointed not to make it back for the 400m IM final,” Rory admits, “but I PB’d in the morning so there’s not much more I can do.  I’ve been taught from a young age that you can’t argue with a PB, so I’ll have to accept that.”
 
Fate was even crueller on Friday in the 200m breaststroke.  Rory had sneaked into the meet as the slowest qualifier but showed just how much he’s progressed with a terrific swim in his heat which put him just 0.01 shy of a starting block in the Junior Final.
 
He did return, in style, on the Saturday night in the last of his swims, in the 200m IM. Having set a 2 second PB to qualify fastest of the juniors he chased the winner, Oliver Fairman all the way, pulling back metres on him the breaststroke length to finish just half a second shy with yet another new PB of 2:08.07.
 
Surprisingly, to those who cheered him home in the stands and watched on the livestream, he regards it as his worst showing of the week.
 
“Although I PB’d it wasn’t the time I had in mind,” tells us. “Had I achieved it, it would have been one that would have made British Swimming officials sit up and take notice, but I just fell short. I know what I need to do to improve in the next few months, though.”
 
“I’d give it a 9/10 and the icing on the cake would have been that 200m IM, and that’s my target for the British Summer Meet.”
 
Brit Champ Rory breastPerhaps he’s being too tough on himself? Jess says Rory has a lot to be proud of.
 
“I can’t complain about any of his swims,” she insists.
 
“There’s still a lot to work on, though, and we’ve got time to prepare to qualify for the summer meets. He’s sitting well placed in his rankings in his main events and it’s another opportunity to race the kids in his race group.
 
“Going through a trials meet is tough and it’s good for him to get the opportunity to do that at such a young age and early in his career.
 
“Within the next two seasons he’ll be up there going for open finals and he’ll already be accustomed to that environment.

“I’ve talked to a lot of other coaches about the transition from junior to senior and it’s tough, but Rory’s definitely capable of making that jump when the time comes.”
 
“He’s a role model within club,” she continues. “He’s always one of the first to start his pre-pool and puts the effort in when required, but also knows when to relax with the team and have a good time, and it’s great to have that balance.”
 
Swimming alongside Britain’s Olympic heroes is clearly leaving its mark on Rory, who started adopting some of their pre-race habits at Tollcross, striding out from behind the screens on finals night with his headphones clamped over his swimming cap, in the zone, and blocking out the world around him.
 
So, what was he listening to, we wondered?
 
“It depends how I’m feeling,” he answers. “I used to be into hard house music, but I sometimes feel that if I get too pumped up then I’ll just want to go out and try and race everyone, so I’ve gone a bit more mellow now with some Drake.
 
“In the build-up to the race I was rolling out on the floor with a bit of Kasabian, and then when I was doing pre-pool, I switched to some of AJ Tracey’s grime album which got me in the mood for racing, but not too pumpd.

 “Looking back on the Championship I’m just happy to have experienced it all and the older I get the more I’m taking in from what the best in Britain do.”
 
“I don’t get too startled by these guys because we’re all there to do the same thing and swim our fastest. I’m going to be at their stage one day, and they’ve been where I am now.”