Adlington inspired by swimming mentor

01 August 2012 / 17:51

Swimmer Michael Phelps became the most successful Olympian in history on Tuesday with the man who has guided him since the age of 11 looking on from poolside.

When it comes to a British parallel, for Phelps and Bob Bowman read Rebecca Adlington and Bill Furniss. For the Britons, it has also been a varied journey since Adlington joined Furniss's training group at Nova Centurion aged 12.

On Thursday, Furniss will look on as Adlington launches the second stage of her bid to become the first Briton to successfully defend an Olympic swimming title when she goes in the 800 metres freestyle heats. She was third in the 400m, a result which underlined not only her skill but also her guts, determination and self-belief.

Adlington and Furniss are a combination who complement each other perfectly.

The Sheffield-born coach once described Adlington as a "Jekyll and Hyde" character - warm and bubbly out of the water but single-minded and fiercely competitive in it. For Adlington, the trust she has in Furniss is total and it is this relationship that has seen them win titles at Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth level.

When asked how much of his charge's success is down to coaching and how much is her natural talent, Furniss said: "She's talented but it's been drilled in to her for 10 years. It's a combination. She is an amazing athlete. I'm not going to say she's been manufactured, but the gift she's got is she's very focused, she's very technically aware.

"When I talk to her about technique, she's very good at implementing that and keeping to it. I can say to one swimmer 'Do this', and six seconds later she's not doing it. I say to Rebecca 'Do this', and six years later she's still doing it. She's just got this amazing ability to concentrate, focus and apply herself."

Adlington has spoken many times of the important part Furniss has in her life. It is clear Adlington attaches great importance to being part of a close team, whether it be with Furniss, her boyfriend and fellow swimmer Harry Needs, or family, to whom she is very close, and friends.

She described how the GB team is as one these days, in contrast to when she first joined in 2004. Adlington said: "The atmosphere is completely different. We all support each other. There are no rivalries, no cliques. We are all so close.

"It is not about who sits with who at dinner - there is none of that. It is the same among the coaches as well. They are not going around hoping their swimmer beats another coach's swimmer. That has helped make us a stronger team and has definitely helped us. That is why we have improved so much."