Plymouth Leander raised their number of 2012 Olympians to four with Antony James forcing his way onto the Great Britain team for the home London Olympics in just over 30 days’ time. Antony’s inclusion in the 100m Butterfly and as an option for the British 400m Medley relay means that he joins Ruta Meilutyte, Jamila Lunkuse and Jade Howard at the Games, the three Plymouth Leander girls having been confirmed earlier in the year.
Having competed at the Commonwealth Games, European Championships and World Championships, the Olympic Games is Antony’s last (and most significant) unchartered major meet and he becomes Plymouth Leander’s first ever British Olympian and Plymouth’s first British swimming Olympian since Sharron Davis in 1992. Gold in the 100m Butterfly at the ASA National Championships in Sheffield secured his place on the team, simply smashing his opponents into submission in the final following a disappointing first Trials in London in March. He now joins a 44-strong British swimming team for London (the largest ever assembled for an Olympics).
Antony’s Coach Jon Rudd has coached him since he was 8 years of age, with James having joined the Plymouth Leander programme in 1998. Few swimming coaches for any Olympian can lay such a claim on being the key component in the coaching chain over a 12-year period.
Plymouth-born, formerly of Devonport High School for Boys and supported by the University of Plymouth during his gap year, Antony will head back to the training pool this week to commence his final preparations, firstly in Plymouth and then at the Great Britain holding camp in Edinburgh. Team-mate Steven Beckerleg, almost identical to Antony in age and in a 1998 starting point with Leander was to miss out on Olympic selection by one place in his quest to make the British 4 x 200m Freestyle relay squad. Beckerleg’s time of 1:49.25 was a huge personal best and will give him great impetus into next season; both James and Beckerleg will reach their physical peaks at or around the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
With Antony also taking silver in the 50m Butterfly, stable-mate Joe Patching was to claim his first senior National medal with bronze in the 50m Backstroke, with Joe Parker matching this achievement in the 200m Breaststroke.
Plymouth Leander Head Coach Jon Rudd described this as “career defining points” for both he and Antony and will now set about preparing his charge for his most important racing week to date.