Swimmer Jay Lelliott’s mind and body are finally both playing ball at the same time ahead of the Commonwealth Games.
The Dorchester star has booked his spot on Team England for this summer’s Games in Birmingham, his first major Championship appearance in four years.
It marks a turnaround after a period in which Lelliott, 27, lost his way in the sport.
“I suppose I got caught up in the rat race of the sport after getting injured,” he said.
“For four years I felt that I was swimming with a cloud around me and not racing for my actual purpose and my own goals.
“I would go through a cycle where if a competition was coming up I would rush myself during the preparation stages just to compete and that would lead to me getting injured.”
This summer, Team England, supported by National Lottery funding, will comprise over 400 athletes in total.Having secured his place on the squad, Lelliott is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in his home country.
Lelliott broke out with 400m freestyle bronze at the 2014 European Championships and made the Great Britain team at the two subsequent continental gatherings.
Now specialising in 200m butterfly, he has twice missed out on the Olympics by the skin of his teeth, clocking a huge personal best at trials for Tokyo - a second shy of the standard.
Eventually Lelliott has found the right mentality to deal with swimming’s slings and arrows.
“My biggest strength is that I have learned from those mistakes that I made,” he said.
“I now understand how I work as a person and what I want to get out of the sport that I really didn’t understand for a very long time.
“Now my goals are focused on self-improvement and I know that if I keep on improving and getting better then I will eventually end up in the position I want to be in.
“I’ve had a lot of work with sports psychologists to help me channel my thoughts and feelings correctly and now I just understand myself far better.”
Lelliott’s redemption story is indivisible from early life adversity that saw him undergo two operations to remove a brain tumour when I was just 13.
The tumour returned a mere couple of months ago and is now a fact of life.
“It’s under constant observation and I deal with it much better now than when I was younger when it was a much bigger problem.” he said.
“It has defined me as a person because I learn to adapt and deal with things. I had to deal with the epilepsy that comes with the tumour too. I handle it as well as I can.”
With the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, Lellliott hopes sharing his story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality.
Amid it all, Lelliott hit the Commonwealth standard for 200m butterfly with 1:57.77 at April’s British Swimming Championships, finishing second behind James Guy.
He also flirted with the standard in the 200m backstroke, clocking 1:58.80, and may yet double up at Sandwell Aquatics Centre.
South Africa’s Chad Le Clos should be standing between Lelliott, who made his Commonwealth debut at Glasgow 2014, and success in the butterfly.
“I can’t control if anyone else is going to turn up on the day but I firmly believe that if all goes to plan and I keep myself fit and conditioned then I will be in good stead for a medal,” he said.
“It’s one of those things now where I just have to start backing myself in all capacities and see where it takes me.”
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