Melton swimmer James Bartley happy to make sacrifices for Olympic dream
Rising swimming talent James Bartley is confident that making sacrifices now will pay off as he eyes the long road to an Olympic dream.
The Melton teenager made the difficult decision to leave home last year to take up a place at Mount Kelly College, in Devon.
The college has developed and coached some of the country’s top swimmers, and 14-year-old James knew it was an offer he couldn’t resist.
Swimming is well-known for the demands placed on its athletes, particularly those also juggling full-time education.
A typical day for James begins with two hours of training from 6am, school until 4.30pm, followed swiftly by three further hours of training, and then one-and-a-half hours of homework.
“It was quite hard to settle at the beginning,” he said. “But as a swimmer it’s a great opportunity to improve further and be the best I can be.
“It was hard to leave home at 14, but it will make me more independent and I know it will be worth it.”
The regime is nothing particularly new, having become accustomed to leaving his Melton home at 4am for two hours of pre-school training followed by an evening trip to Leicester, with his dad John, to train with the county squad.
But James knows such sacrifice is essential if he is to keep stroke with his rivals and give himself a sniff of selection for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and ultimately the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
Last season was a watershed for the former Melton Swimming Club star who swept to a 14-medal haul at the county championships, including five golds, and four top-10 finishes at Midlands level, including a 200m breaststroke bronze.
But more importantly, James then swam to top-10 finishes in all four disciplines at his first English Age Group Championships, with a best of fifth place at 1500m freestyle.
He then finished an encouraging 13th on his British Championship debut at 400m individual medley.
“Last year was a very big one for me as I made the Commonwealth trials, and also it was my first time at nationals where I beat a few people I hadn’t beaten before,” James added.
“I’m really focussing a lot now on longer-distance events and also 200m (butter)fly which are probably my best events.”
This year has already brought his first taste of international competition in the Swiss city of Geneva where he mixed competition with a little star spotting.
Among the competitors on show was 33-time European champion and former world record holder Laszlo Czech.
“It was a very good experience as there some very good swimmers there,” James said. “The whole trip was amazing because of the team and how we supported each other; that’s why we won top club.
“My performances over the weekend weren’t particularly that great, but maybe because of the pool and all the travelling to my first international.”
Back in Britain, James was soon back into his groove at the Devon Long-Distance Championships as a late entry to gauge his 1500m progress.
Despite the limited preparation, he won both the junior title and senior titles at the distance in a time which ranked him ninth in Britain at his age group.
Next up on the domestic scene are the United Bristol Open and Sheffield Premier Open.
“These two events could allow me to qualify for the English and British (age group) Championships,” he explained.
“If I do then hopefully I can get into a final at the British and maybe even medal.”