Rebecca Adlington- now and then

Will Rebecca Adlington add to her gold medal collection?
Will Rebecca Adlington add to her gold medal collection? Photo: ITV Central News

Rebecca Adlington heads to the 2012 Olympics with hopes of gold. They would have been the same hopes she had in Beijing, although back then, four years ago, it would have been more pipe dream than true belief.

Because in 2008, she was just 19 years old, unknown to most of us and just buzzing at having been selected for an Olympic games. But her performance in the 400 metres final, on Monday 11th August 2008 was breathtaking.

She won gold and and her life changed forever. The look of innocence and even shock at realising she had come first was a delight for everyone to see. An unassuming teenager from Mansfield growing in stature as the world looked on.

But what happened five days later would ensure that her name would become legendary in the world of swimming. With new found interest in this young swimmer, the nation back home wondered if her 400 metres performance was a one off. Could she really achieve another medal, in the 800 metres freestyle? She didn't just win gold, but she broke the world record with a time of 8 minutes, 14.1 seconds.

This victory was emphatic, finishing a whole 6 seconds ahead of her nearest challenger.

A media frenzy followed, I remember presenting Central Tonight on location from her home town, as family, friends and thousands of new fans turned out to welcome her home. With the fame, came pressure and expectation and perhaps inevitably a dip in form.

Will Rebecca Adlington add to her gold medal collection?
Will Rebecca Adlington add to her gold medal collection? Credit: ITV Central News

Adlington won bronze at the 2009 World Swimming Championships. For this proud Olympic double gold medallist, that was seen as a disappointment.

But by 2011 Adlington was returning to her best, repeating her Olympic achievement at the Commonwealth games where she won two more gold medals.

And now, she gets her chance to swim in front of a home crowd at the London Olympic Games. This time everyone knows who she is and what she is capable of.

A lot has changed in four years, but to succeed perhaps Adlington needs to approach these games just like she did in Beijing. After all that's what made her Britain's most successful swimmer in a century.