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Pressure begins to build for Michael Jamieson

WHEN Michael Jamieson envisages himself on the bus back to the Athletes' Village at the end of the opening day of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, he is unequivocal about the colour of medal he wants around his neck.

Michael Jamieson has plenty of silver medals to show for his efforts but only a gold will do when the swimming competition starts on day one of the Commonwealth GamesPhotograph: PA
Michael Jamieson has plenty of silver medals to show for his efforts but only a gold will do when the swimming competition starts on day one of the Commonwealth GamesPhotograph: PA

Another silver simply won't cut it.

The Glasgow swimmer has grown weary of being always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Jamieson may possess a quartet of silver medals at Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth Games level - an accomplishment not to be sniffed at - but this time around he doesn't intend to settle for second place. There is almost an air of Andy Murray and his quest for Wimbledon glory about Jamieson's story as he strives for success in the pool. "I think unsatisfied is probably an understatement," he says, when asked how he would feel if he finished runner-up again. "There is only one result I'm looking for this time."

The 25-year-old was named among the 40-strong aquatics contingent that will represent Team Scotland at the Games. The 2014 British Gas Swimming Championships earlier this month saw him clock 2:07.79 to win the men's 200m breaststroke - just 0.3sec off the British record he set at London 2012 - and top the world rankings. Jamieson has been selected to compete in both 100m and 200m breaststroke in Glasgow this summer, but emphasised that the latter distance would remain his key focus.

"Being an ambassador for the Games I'm sure you guys would have had a field day if I hadn't managed to qualify, so it's nice to get that out of the way," he smiles. "I was pretty happy with my results. The 200m is right where I would like it to be at this stage leading into the last preparation phase before the Games and I think from now until then the 100m event will take a back seat.

"The 200m is the main event. That's the one I have a medal chance in. That's the one that needs to be given all the focus."

But for Jamieson, success on day one of the Games is arguably about more than just personal achievement. It his belief that he carries the weight of expectation for the entire Scottish team squarely on his broad shoulders.

"It's important to get off to a good start as it gets the ball rolling and we saw that in London," he says. "In that sense there is a bit more responsibility because everyone wants to see us perform well and to get the medal count rolling for the whole team, not just the swimmers."

The prospect of sporting a saltire on his cap in front of his home-city crowd at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre is one Jamieson relishes. "I think all the athletes are the same," he says. "There is an added sense of identification and a bit more pride there. We don't get a chance to represent our home nation often so everyone is really eager to be in shape and perform at their best.

"Now, at 25, I'm one of the more senior members of the team which is the complete opposite to how it was in Delhi, so I'm kind of enjoying that as well."

Jamieson finished second in Delhi four years ago, touching the wall 0.08 of a second behind Australia's Brenton Rickard in the 200m breaststroke final. He is already sizing up his main rivals for Glasgow. "Christian Sprenger, the Australian, swam 2:08 at his trials last week," he says. "Andrew Willis, the Olympic and world finalist, he's swam 2:08. A few of the younger guys have gone 2:09, 2:10. I'm sure, as is always the case at major events, they will be making big drops as the crowd and adrenalin kicks in. I can't control any of those guys. I've just got to prepare the best way I can and thus far everything is going to plan."

He and Willis are good friends and train together in Bath where Jamieson is based. "We're both looking to be British No 1 in the 200m and it's been kind of to-ing and fro-ing in the past couple of years," he says. "Obviously I want him to swim well, but to finish behind me. And he's the same. It will be the same this summer."

The fierce competitiveness between the pair is certainly proving a useful spur. "The coach always tries jokingly to perform mind games on us," says Jamieson. "Whenever we are training he shouts times that we are both doing to try and get a bit rivalry there. Quite often we are right next to each other, racing and competing on the harder sets.

"There are pros and cons to that. If you have a bad day at training you don't want to be the one that is behind. But training with another world-class breaststroker obviously helps raise the standard. Days where you need to find an extra few tenths in the middle of a hard session, it makes it a lot easier to look for that when we're racing head-to-head."

Jamieson had the distinct good fortune of being among the few athletes at the 2010 Commonwealth Games not to succumb to India's dreaded "Delhi belly" that floored many of the top stars. "I had the exact same thing to eat every day for 13 days. The only thing I ate was bread, potato wedges, baked beans. No meat. My only source of protein was the shakes and supplements I had taken over with me.

"I only ate dry carbohydrates for the whole two weeks. No salad, no fruit or veg, so I was losing weight as the meet went on. I think it was just as well that I raced early as I was looking a bit thin by the end."

In comparison, preparing for Glasgow should be a doddle but Jamieson is leaving nothing to chance. "The number one thing is to stay injury and illness free," he says. "I just need to look after myself and I think I'll be wrapped up in cotton wool when I get back to training next week. It's one of those things that you don't want to think about too much because it just starts stressing you out."

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