When Jack Burnell lines up at the start of the 10km marathon swim at the European Championships, he will be painfully aware he hasn’t done as much training as he’d like to have done – a feeling that’s very familiar to us amateur swimmers. However, for most of us, our careers and dreams are not dependent on how we swim.
Jack famously experienced bitter disappointment in Rio, where he was contentiously disqualified on the finish line. He admits that putting the disappointment behind him has been a mental struggle but says: “You can’t dwell too much. I’ve just decided to throw myself back in and put myself in the best position possible for Tokyo 2020.”
But first, the European Championships. Jack doesn’t know how he broke his rib, just that it hurts a lot and he’s already raced twice with it, in Portugal and Hungary, where he finished 3rd and 8th. Respectable results, considering the circumstances. He explains that he had to change his usual tactics to cope.
“I prefer to swim near the front of the pack where I can control things better but because of the rib I’ve been swimming near the back of the pack, trying to keep out of the ‘washing machine’ and then trying to move forwards near the end.”
He admits that while this position is safer for his rib, it makes him vulnerable if the pack splits.
While he’s been working hard with his coach and physio, he also knows he simply hasn’t done as much training as he’d have liked and “for a swimmer, there is nothing that compensates for losing time in the water.”
Nevertheless, he’s looking forward to racing in Loch Lomond. “It’s a beautiful place and it’s great to do a European Championship event in Britain.”
Does it concern him that it might be a wetsuit race? “Not at all. It is what it is. I’m sponsored by Huub and their suits are very advanced.”