Rio 2016 might be on the horizon, but swimmer Martyn Walton has already embarked on the road to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Like many young boys, he began his sporting life as a keen footballer, but after taking the plunge with his school’s swimming programme he hasn’t looked back.
“It’s a very humbling experience as I know not many people get to experience what I have”
“It was at my local pool in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, and the instructors there asked if I would join the swimming team. I played football like most boys at that age, around seven, but since I was terrible at it, the decision of what sport to choose was easy,” he told me.
It wasn’t till age of 10 that Walton started to think about whether he could have a future in the sport after exceeding expectations at a County Championships.
“I decided to move to Hatfield Swimming Club as, at the time and still to this day, they are one of the best in the country. The following year, I won the two golds at the British national championships in the 11-year-old category.
“The transition to Hatfield and that success is when I began to take my swimming seriously.”
Since then, Walton’s progress in the pool has seen him become part of a talented Great Britain team.
“I have competed and been on the podium for GB numerous times at junior level, and it is a great honour to represent your country in a sport you love,” he said.
“It’s also a very humbling experience as I know not many people get to experience what I have, so it’s an extra incentive to perform on a stage like that. I feel extremely privileged, but a senior podium place at a major meet is the goal.”
Last year, Walton competed at the inaugural European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he excelled by picking up five medals. Did he exceed his own expectations?
“I was very confident entering that meet. I had my eyes on medals and I didn’t want just the one. Four were in relays and one individually, so it was great to be on the podium with team-mates and by myself as that was my first individual international medal.”
Despite that first individual international honour, it’s clear to see that Walton thrives on the relay races.
“I love a good relay, there is something about the atmosphere and pressure to perform which is surreal. I have been on the top of the podium the last three times I have competed in this, even internationally, and I’ve shared those three podiums with my current flatmate in Stirling, Duncan Scott.”
“I’m not counting out Rio but it will be extremely difficult to qualify as my peak four-year Olympic cycle will come round for 2020”
Walton emphasises the importance of team chemistry in relay races. “I would definitely say it’s massive, and the fact that I know my team-mates and that we can trust each other to do the job required is huge to our success.”
As well as Baku, he was also involved in the British Swimming Summer Championships where he collected gold in 200m individual medley as well as winning silver in the 200m backstroke.
But, at the tender age of 17, it was on that big stage in Baku where he took his chance with both hands, giving him a taste of what things could be like in the future.
“The experience was great and the exposure to the media was a lot more than I expected. Sharing the athlete’s village with Nicola Adams and other senior successful athletes was a great insight into what it takes to make it and the professionalism required to be at that level.”
The young swimmer is well aware of the challenges that are ahead with Rio 2016 in the summer he knows the task he faces to qualify
“The Olympic trials are six weeks and obviously qualification for Rio 2016 is my main aim, but actually there is an opportunity to qualify for the European Championships, which would then be my first senior international meet.
“I’m not counting out Rio but it will be extremely difficult to qualify, for me as my peak four-year Olympic cycle will come round for 2020. This is what I work for every day for and I know what I need to work on and where I need to develop, but I think patience is the key.