If there was an award for Britain’s most improved swimmer over the last 12 months Andrew Willis would be among the contenders but he admits coming so close to a World Championship medal is hardly a consolation.
A year and a day after finishing eighth in the Olympic final of the 200m breaststroke at London 2012 Willis came an agonising fourth in Barcelona – just missing out on his first major medal.
He did beat the silver medallist from London 2012, and British teammate, Michael Jamieson by one hundredth of a second to clock 2:09.13minutes but that was just another small crumb of comfort.
Daniel Gyurta retained his title with a new championship record of 2:07.23 while Germany’s Marco Koch and Finland’s Matti Mattsson prevented the British duo a place in the top three in Spain.
Climbing more podiums was Willis’ resolution after the London 2012 Olympics last summer so despite improving by four places the 22-year-old was still wondering what might have been.
“I think [improving by four places] is the only positive that came out of the race, there’s no room for excuses that should have been quicker,” said Willis, who’s personal best is 2:08.47.
“I’ve changed my mindset this year, I’ve been focussing on medals and, yes I was eighth last time at the worlds, eighth in the Olympics and fourth this time round, but it’s not a medal.
“I think I held my nerve a bit better in the big race, but for me and Michael to just miss out by that much is a bit gutting really.”
The battle between Willis and Jamieson looked sure to bring Britain its first medal in the Palau Sant Jordi pool, with the former looking the stronger throughout the rounds.
And Willis claims it was a benefit to have the Scot around, taking the fight to the rest of the world, even if they finished agonisingly short of a medal in Barcelona.
“It’s pretty helpful, I know he’s always going to have a good swim so you can’t underestimate any of the rounds really,” he added.
“It was a case of getting to the final where it was anyone’s game, but it’s good to have him about in training, we certainly do a lot of pace work, and we do spur each other on.
“It’s a bit strange because I’ve sometimes had swims to come into the meet to settle me down, but here I’ve just had the 200m.”
© Sportsbeat 2013