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JAMES Wilby’s disappointment was not just about missing out on an Olympic medal for himself – he was in Japan with the dream of bringing back a medal for his mum, writes Paul Eddison.
The 27-year-old Wilby had qualified with the second fastest time in his second Olympic final of the meet, the 200m breaststroke, but could only manage sixth in a final where seven of the eight competitors were under world record pace at the halfway stage and Australia’s Zac Stubblety-Cook broke the Olympic record to take gold.
An emotional Wilby was understandably frustrated at the way he faded down the final length, and revealed afterwards that it was his mother Fiona, an NHS nurse who has been on the front line administering Covid vaccines, who has inspired him.
Asked what she meant to him, Wilby said: “Oh God, now you're going to get me emotional. There was always someone that was going to get it, it was either going to be one of my team-mates or one of you guys.
“My mum's been putting in such a shift for me over the last 27 years and that's probably been the main disappointment which is I know I've made her proud but I haven't quite won the medal I would liked to have won for her.
“She's been working as a nurse, giving out vaccines recently, to an extent which makes me so proud of her and for what's she done for me and my brother over the last quite a few years. I'm really, really happy with what she's done. She's the role model in all this, I hope she enjoyed watching that.”
The swim brought to an end Wilby’s individual swims in Tokyo, with a decision still to be made over whether he will feature for GB in their medley relay heats if the team want to preserve Adam Peaty for the final.
Whether he swims again or not though, Wilby knows he still has a role to do while in Japan.
He added: “If that’s my last swim here at the Games, I have a job to do supporting others. There are some people coming up who I train with and am very close with.
“I want to be there to help wherever I can with them. If I get a chance to swim again, I’ll be there and I’ll be ready to put this behind me and move on and put in a good effort for the team.
“I am a big believer in it being a team sport and that means my attitude and mannerisms affect other people – staff and swimmers.
“I don’t want to be the 0.01% that drains them. I take as much pride in my own swimming as I do in contributing that 0.01% to anyone else’s journey. I am gutted to individually leave the Olympics with ‘nothing to show for it’, as they might say, no medal, but there are still more medals to be won in the team. I can’t switch off and no one else is going to switch off. That’s the way we keep pushing in this family that we’ve got going.”
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