After finally getting close to repeating his London 2012 exploits at the World University Games, Craig Benson insists it is all systems go to make a splash at Rio.
Having never appeared in a domestic final before in three previous events, University of Stirling’s Benson shocked the national circuit by claiming 100m breaststroke silver at the Olympic trials in 2012.
That saw Benson earn a spot on the Team GB squad for London, where he set a new personal best of 1:00.04 minutes in his heat before finishing 14th overall with a time of 1:00.13 in his semi-final.
Despite that being three years ago Benson has since failed to get close to those times, however all that changed in Gwangju, South Korea, at the World University Games.
Benson swam 1:00.16 to win his 100m breaststroke semi-final – going on to claim bronze in a time of 1:00.33.
But the 21-year-old didn’t stop there, returning to the pool to pick up another bronze in the 200m equivalent, all of which leaves him dreaming big for next year’s Rio Olympics.
“I qualified first for the 100m final after a season’s best swim in the semi-finals which I was absolutely ecstatic about and it was just off my personal best time which I did at the London Olympics,” he said.
“So to be down almost getting a best time again in almost three years it was such a good feeling.
“Off the back of that I really built myself up for the final and really wanted to get that gold medal but I knew it was going to be really tough to do that and the race just didn’t quote go my way and I was a little bit slower and just missed out on the touch for a silver against James [Wilby].
“But it was my first senior international medal so actually on reflection of it I was really happy.
“I qualified first for the 200m final again and I was just trying to progress through the rounds and put myself in the middle lanes.
“And the 200m is my main event and I have been putting a lot of focus into it, especially this season, and I was happy with the personal best time and the way I swam the race was exactly how I wanted to swim it, but I was so close at the end.
“I am happy with another international medal and this is really all about the Olympic season next year so ultimately it doesn’t matter if I finish first, second or third.”
No sooner had the water settled in Gwangju was Benson immediately planning his route to Rio.
However, with the likes of world record holder Adam Peaty around in the British ranks, that is certainly easier said than done – not that Benson is going to throw the towel in any time soon.
“At the start of August I’ll have the US Open Championships in Texas and hopefully I can better the times I have posted here,” he added.
“That will end that season hopefully on a high and then I will have a couple of weeks off, get back into hard training and work towards the Olympic trials in April and try and get a spot in that team which is going to be extremely difficult with the standard of breaststroke in Britain right now.
“But it is a challenge I am excited for and I think I can manage.”
© Sportsbeat 2015