First year Geography student Tim Shuttleworth is on the right path to Rio, having taken almost a minute off his 1500m personal best in the last 12 months.
“When I first arrived in Loughborough, Rio wasn’t even on the horizon"
Tim’s on the right path to Rio
Map reading – that’s what geographers do, right?! Well let’s hope first year geography student Tim Shuttleworth knows his way to Rio de Janeiro.
Having arrived in Loughborough just nine months ago, the 19 year old swimmer was more likely to be going on holiday in Brazil than competing in the Olympic Games.
“When I first got here Rio wasn’t even on the horizon. When I arrived my time for the 1500m was 15.45 and now my personal best is 14.55, so I’ve dropped just under a minute. My progress has been crazy and I wasn’t thinking of Rio at all when I joined and not even a couple of months before the Olympic Trials in April.”
Like most people, Shuttleworth first got into swimming by just learning to swim. From there it was to join the competitive side of his local club in Enfield, before realising he had a bit of talent. After deciding university was the next step, the Londoner opted for Loughborough, like many of Great Britain’s best swimmers do.
“I decided to come to Loughborough because it’s renowned for its sport and I knew there was a really good programme with some really good swimmers. I also knew that the university was a good university and I could do my studies and swimming alongside each other, both to a high level.
“In fact I have a lifestyle adviser who works with the university and the geography department to make sure I can fit in both my swimming and studies. Sometimes my lectures are captured so that I can watch them back if I’m unable to attend, or I might get a swim session moved so that I can go to a key lecture if it’s one I just can’t afford to miss. Everyone has been really good about it and enabled me to balance the two.”
But how has the 1500m man gone from ‘also swam’ to Olympian in just nine months?
“There’s plenty of technology here and the underwater cameras have helped me to change my technique drastically and that’s been one of the main reasons why I’ve improved so much. Everything to do with my stroke has been completely changed – within the first few weeks the coaches were using the cameras to analyse my stroke and in the end it was actually quite a quick process to make changes and see improvement.”
With his training times dropping on an almost weekly basis, his coaches new they had a star on their hands, but would Rio come too soon?
“After my heat at the trials was possibly the first time Rio became a possibility. I swam 15.17, which was just two seconds outside my personal best at the time and it was a very easy swim and I didn’t have to put much effort into it. After that race Kev [Renshaw, his coach] said to me ‘there’s no pressure on you and no one is expecting anything, but me and you both know that you can do it.’ So from there I went into the final with belief.
“In the final I took it out from the front and all I could really think was ‘I’m still winning, I’m still winning!’ It got to the last 100m and I realised that I’d probably won it, so I just went to my legs and it was a great feeling.
“It still hasn’t really sunk in. It’s very surreal.”
With everything happening so quickly, including the successful completion of the first year of his Geography degree, has Shuttleworth had time to think about what Rio might be like?
“It’s going to be a great experience. The atmosphere will be incredible, just being surrounded by the best people in every sport. It’s just what every little kid dreams of doing so it’s going to be a real honour.”
It isn’t just about the experience though, as despite his calm demeanour, Shuttleworth has the bit between his teeth.
“First of all I want to make the final of the 1500m, and once I’m there we’ll see what happens. Anything can happen; dare to dream, as they say!”