Olympian Andrew Willis inspires young swimmers on return to BracknellBy Jonathan Low
September 14, 2012
Olympic finalist Andrew Willis returned to Bracknell and Woking-ham Swimming Club to inspire young swimmers this week.
The 21-year-old who reached the 200m breaststroke final last month was back in the pool at Bracknell Leisure Centre on Tuesday encouraging youngsters to follow their dreams.
Andrew met young fans to sign autographs and also gave them some tips in the pool in Bagshot Road, fresh from joining Team GB’s victory parade in London.
He hopes the Games will have a positive effect on British sport and see many youngsters come through to elite level in the future.
He said: “Being the home Games it should inspire a generation.
“Children can come to us and we [Olympians] can tell them what it’s like.
“When you race at a level like that, it’s something you’ll never experience if you don’t put the effort in the years beforehand.
“The facilities here [in Bracknell] are great and there’s so many sports around to try. We just need to keep it up and keep it going.”
Andrew’s father Nigel, head coach at the swimming club, said: “As a club, since Andrew’s success we’ve been inundated with people making enquiries about joining and learning to swim.
“People like Andrew and Michael [Jamieson] are great ambassadors to the sport.
“We really need to get out to local schools and try and promote the sport of swimming, because the younger people are our future Olympians.
“The other important thing is we need to try and establish a better working partnership with the local sports centre, to help these young people achieve their aims and their dreams.”
Talking about his Olympic experience Andrew, who studies chemical engineering at the University of Bath, said: “I’d do it again if I could. It’s incredible that I’ve been to a home Olympics.
“The big memory I have was before my semi-final hearing my teammate Michael [Jamieson] go out and hearing the roar.
“And when I came out for my semi-final I honestly thought the roof was going to fall on me.
“The crowd was amazing and I could hear the roar under the water at each turn, it was unbelievable.”
Andrew revealed he is determined to build on his success.
He said: “I’ve been in a Commonwealth final, a World Championship final and an Olympic final, so for Rio I’m going to step it up and really go for it.
“It’s been a crazy few years and when people talk about training for an Olympics for four years, it’s not just that.
“It starts with the kids getting up and going to train in the mornings.
“The last four years have been a bit more hectic but I’ll be taking it slow and the Commonwealths is something I definitely want to target, and then Rio as well.”
Simon Johnson, swimming club chairman, said: “We were absolutely thrilled with Andrew.
“His rise to this level has been fairly swift over the past couple of years.
“And to see him come through the heats, and then the semi-final and Olympic final was just fantastic.”