Buxton swim star Abbie Wood determined to take advantage of Tokyo Olympics postpomenent

Buxton swim star Abbie Wood believes her chances of winning an Olympic medal will be helped by the postponement of the Tokyo games.

Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 11:13 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 2:12 pm
Abbie Wood won gold at the 400m IM on day eleven of the Baku 2015 European Games. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images for BEGOC)

The Olympics will now take place between 23rd July and 8th August 2021 following the fall-out of the global coronavirus pandemic.

And the elite Loughborough University athlete is confident she will feel the benefit of the switch as she reaches the peak of her career.

“The extra year will help me develop,” said Wood. “Older swimmers who were maybe thinking of retiring after the Olympics are holding out for another year, so it is more of a negative for them as they look to keep the form they had.

“I’m 21 and 18-24 years old is probably the best age for swimming, so I am right in the middle and it’s not so much of a concern and probably more of a benefit.

“I have just started to get momentum in the sport on the senior stage so having an extra year to prepare is probably good.”

Wood, who is studying criminology at Loughborough, finished a disappointing 20th in the 400m IM at the 2017 World Aquatics Championships in Budapest.

But the former Derventio eXcel member took far more out that experience than just an ‘also-ran’ place, with Wood believing it has helped make her the swimmer she is today.

Abbie Wood competes in the heats of the 200m IM during day five of the British Swimming Championships last year 2019. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“When I went to the Worlds I was only 17 and I was quite naive as to how big the stage would be compared to the junior stage,” she said.

“When I got there I just freaked out, I was going in in 8th and should have made the final, but it was a different ballpark and I froze.

“As I’ve done more and more senior competitions.I am a lot more comfortable on the bigger stage.

“I thought I had a lot of confidence coming out of junior swimming, so it really shocked me. I saw myself as confident, but it was a lot different with all the eyes on you.”

Gold medalist Abbie Wood celebrates after winning the 400m Individual Medley final at the 2015 European Games. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images for BEGOC)

Wood followed that up with 7th in 200m IM at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia to gain more crucial experience at the events.

But she knows there is a long road ahead to make her dreams reality as she looks to keep her fitness levels as high as possible until she can get back to full training.

As part of her recent fitness regime Wood has been coming up with some creative ways to stay in shape, including working as a bin man with her dad and swimming in a 10m pool at the Green Lane home of Buxton resident Steve Robinson.

“For me the last eight weeks has made me realise how lucky I am,” she said. “I have been working for my dad as a binman.

“I used to crave being in the normal world and to have a job. Now that I have had that experience I realise how lucky I am to be swimming and doing what I love, it’s like being paid to do a hobby sort of thing.

“I have also been trying to get the feel of the water in the little pool at Steve’s house.

“I was speaking to him from a distance in his garden. He would leave it open for me during the day every weekday when I would go in,.

“I would go in three times a week to try get a feel of the water. It is still limited, but it's better than nothing and very generous of him.”

But Wood, who first took up the sport aged 10, knows the real work is yet to begin - with a mental battle to be won just as much as a physical one when the sport eventually resumes.

“You have got to get those eight weeks back that you have lost and it will be a hard year ahead, but it will really show who is stronger in the sport,” she said.

“It will be more of an elimination process in the sport and those people that can’t hack this challenge wont get as far.

“People say you don't forget to ride a bike, when you ride a bike you are as good as the last time you rode a bike.

“When you are swimming, it is hard to explain how you feel when you get in the water - it will be a weird feeling to have when I get back in the water.

“I have not had more than a month off since I first started swimming when I was 10, To have two months off, and maybe more is quite scary.

“Everyone is in the same boat, everyone who is aiming for the Olympics has the same time off.”