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Page last updated at 19:55 GMT, Thursday, 28 February 2008

Swimmer Jones eyes Beijing glory

by Elizabeth Hudson

British swimmer Natalie Jones
Jones will be aiming to retain her Paralympic medley crown in Beijing
As she approaches her third Paralympic Games, swimmer Natalie Jones is admitting to feeling her age.

The Manchester-based athlete might only be 23 but having made her Games debut in Sydney in 2000, where she was the youngest member of the British team at the age of 15, and then winning individual and relay gold in Athens four years later, she has packed a lot in.

Jones, who has cerebral palsy, is now gearing up to secure her place in the British team for this year's Games in Beijing, with two sets of trials fast approaching.

"It's funny to be one of the more experienced members of the team at 23," she told BBC Sport.

"The youngest swimmer on the squad is only 13 and I look at her and I feel old. I wasn't even on the team at her age - it's really depressing!

"I'm certainly not the oldest in the squad, but those of us who have been around for a while do have a laugh about it."

She won two golds and a silver at the IPC World Championships in South Africa in late 2006, but with no major international competitions for British swimmers in 2007 it was a difficult time for Jones to stay motivated.

However, with the Beijing Olympics on the horizon the arrival of 2008 refreshed her enthusiasm and a training camp early in the year saw her training with renewed vigour.

"My preparations for the Athens Paralympics weren't the best as I only moved to Manchester from Colchester three months before the Games," said Jones, who swims in the S6 category.

"But this time I'm settled in Manchester. I'm not worrying about having to move house and it's all a lot smoother which means my preparations are a lot better."

Jones's speciality event is the 200m individual medley, where she is the current Paralympic and world champion, as well as the world record holder.

She hopes to continue her dominance in Beijing, as well as challenging in the freestyle events, but pushing her all the way are team-mates Nyree Lewis and Liz Johnson.

They were third and fourth respectively in the IM at the World Championships and Jones knows she cannot afford to rest on her laurels.

"It's a really good rivalry between the three of us," she said. "Liz beat me at the start of last year, which was a bit of a culture shock for me.

It would be tough if either Rik or I made it to Beijing and the other didn't - that's something I don't want to contemplate at the moment

Jones on boyfriend Rik Waddon

"My favourite leg is the freestyle, I'm OK on the butterfly and my backstroke is OK-ish but my breaststroke is rubbish. I've tried hard but it won't improve. I'm just really lucky that my other three legs are good enough to compensate."

Jones, an avid Chelsea fan, will be hoping to make a big impact at the first of two sets of Paralympic trials which take place alongside the British Olympic trials in Sheffield in late March.

But she is also hoping that boyfriend Rik Waddon can make up for the disappointment of missing Athens and secure his place in Beijing.

Waddon, who is part of the British Paralympic cycling squad, won silver in the CP3 kilometre time trial and gold in the team sprint at last year's World Championships in France.

"It does help that Rik is involved in elite sport but it's good that we are involved in different sports," said Jones.

"We both understand each other's sports to a certain extent but having not made it to Athens, he is even more determined to get to Beijing.

"It would be tough if one of us made it and the other not. It's something I don't want to contemplate at the moment because of how close he came last time so I just have to focus on my own training."

Natalie Jones is among the British athletes who BBC Sport will be following during the countdown to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Paralympics.

see also
GB rower building for Beijing
18 Feb 08 |  Paralympics
British trio break records at IPC
06 Dec 06 |  Paralympics
Q&A: Natalie Jones
04 Apr 05 |  Paralympics


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