"It’s been amazing. I have been based in Loughborough since 2003 and have enjoyed every minute. I believe it is the best place for me to train,” Liam Tancock explains, reminiscing about his time as a student. His recent graduation draws to an end an eight year chapter and opens the much sorter 365 day episode which could see him succeed in becoming an Olympic Gold medalist.
Tancock is a man of very few words, reserved in nature, a true sportsman who prefers his triumphs in the pool to speak louder than his actions out of it. And that is exactly what he has achieved so far.
Returning from Shanghai only a couple of days ago – where he defended his World 50m backstroke title – the Fatboy as he’s fondly known by his older brother, more importantly finished the 100m backstroke in a seasons best time of 53.25, a mere 0.26 seconds off a podium place.
The significance of this result cannot be underestimated. For come the summer of 2012, Tancock will be without his reliable one length 50m discipline, of which his superiority continues, as the minimum distance at the Olympics is double that. Crucially, involving a turn, a skill Tancock readily admits he is still in the process of perfecting.
“Obviously in the 50m there is no turning whereas in the 100 there will be. Getting the turns right is the key element I’ve been working on. But it’s definitely a slightly different focus. The 50m is an all out sprint though to be honest the 100 virtually is too,” the 26-year-old told goggle blog earlier this year.
It’s already been a long journey for the Exeter-born man to reach such heights as back-to-back World Championship titles, and there’s no doubt in his mind that a steady background at university combined with the strict training regime has helped him progress to one of Great Britain’s more likely medal winners in London next year.
“It’s been great that I have been able to combine competing at the highest level of my sport whilst gaining a prestigious degree,” Tancock says. “I have split my course over a number of years and at times concentrated my efforts on completing individual modules, before moving onto the next module. Sometimes when I have been away competing internationally I have presented my work and handed in my assignments early.”
Yet none of these astonishing achievements could have been realised without the slick discipline, preparation and commitment shown from an early age. It isn’t easy to comprehend the sheer undertaking required by a professional swimmer to meet the demands of their sport, however, if anyone can comment on the dedication then look no further than the BBC’s swimming correspondent, Ex Olympic and Commonwealth medallist Steve Parry, who believes the Devonian has been underestimated so far.
“Liam Tancock is the back-bone of the British team,” Parry said to BBC Sport whilst reporting out in Shanghai. ”He's got five World Championship medals and two of those are gold, sometimes I don't think Liam gets the credit that he deserves. What he's achieved has been absolutely fantastic.”
There’s a simple mantra Tancock follows which reveals why he’s done so well, “lots of training and pushing my body to the limits,” and it’s likely to serve him well in the forthcoming battle for a podium position.