Melton swimmer makes nationals six weeks after breaking foot

James Bartley's chances of qualifying looked slim after breaking his foot in April EMN-191106-144018002
James Bartley's chances of qualifying looked slim after breaking his foot in April EMN-191106-144018002
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James Bartley will fight on eight fronts at the Summer National Swimming Championships after battling through serious injury and exam pressure.

Qualifying for any events had looked impossible when the Melton swimmer broke his foot at the worst possible time - the start of the six-week qualification window.

With training and racing impossible, and revision for impending GCSE exams also taking priority, prospects didn’t look good for the 15-year-old.

“After breaking my foot my expectations were very low,” Bartley said.

“I had put some times in the window, but thought they wouldn’t qualify and I was hoping to get a few more faster times before the window had ended.”

Aided by a protective boot made famous by David Beckham before the 2002 World Cup, Bartley’s recovery from the offending metatarsal was remarkable and took everyone by surprise.

“My recovery process was much faster than everyone thought and was only about three weeks in a protective boot,” he explained.

“Towards the end of the healing process I started to swim before I was out of the boot, meaning I could gain fitness and recover.

“My hopes became very high as I knew I had put the work in to gain some more qualifying times for the British Championships, and I was also anxious to see if my times would be close to any PBs.”

Knowing he had to pin all of his hopes on the final weekend of qualifying, Bartley hit training hard, helped by coaches at Mount Kelly College, a specialist swimming college he joined in 2017.

But after an incredible meet, the former Melton Swimming Club junior discovered he had qualified for an astonishing eight swims at the nationals.

The tally, chalked up in an impressive variety of strokes, improved on his previous best tally of six set last summer.

He added: “Personally I put my success down to hard work through hard times, but I also have to thank my parents, for giving me the opportunity to come to this school.”

At the British Championships, held at the end of July in Glasgow, he will swim 800m and 1500m freestyle, 200m backstroke, 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley.

A week later he heads to Sheffield for the English Summer Championships where he goes in the 400m freestyle, 100m butterfly and 200m individual medley.

Combining the rigours of reaching and maintaining peak level swimming with all-consuming revision for an important set of exams sounds a daunting prospect.

But the pool can also act as a release from the academic pressure.

Once his GCSE regime is complete, he will fully switch to commitments in the pool, following a strict training programme set for him by Mount Kelly.

“My coach has been very helpful with opening all the sessions in the week so that they are available to all Year 11 swimmers,” Bartley said.

“It has been difficult to juggle both as swimming is such a demanding sport, but most of the time I enjoy the time off from exams and studying.”