By: Natasha Smith
WHEN SHE is not at college or spending time with friends, Jessica Dickens is competing against some of the best butterfly swimmers in the world.
Since she was eight-years-old, she has dreamed of the going to the Olympics and this goal became a closer reality when she recently came 13th at the 12th FINA World Championships in Melbourne, Australia.
Sixteen-year-old Jessica, from Stockton in England, was in the Algarve last week to get some well earned rest with her family. She said staying at Brown’s Sport and Leisure Club, in Vilamoura, was ideal for her because she was still able to do light training and go for runs in the grounds, as well as relax in the swimming pool.
As well as the World Championships, she has had success in European championships in both the long and short course, where she ranked five and three respectively. She trains hard and confesses that she is a very competitive person but, despite her gruelling schedule, she says she loves the training and pushing herself to the limit.
Jessica told The Resident that she usually only has one day off a week, which she treasures because she usually spends up to 27 hours of the week training. She goes out with friends and tries not to think too much about swimming. She did admit that she sometimes goes to the nearest swimming pools and plays around in the water but is happy not to swim lengths. She enjoys running and going to the gym to keep fit as well as spending time with her dog, Ivor.
Jessica said she chose butterfly, which is regarded as one of the hardest strokes to swim and requires very strong upper body strength, because she excelled in it. She still enjoys the other strokes and competes in individual medleys, which is demanding and requires all strokes.
So far in her career, the best place Jessica says she has visited is Australia. She attended a training camp there and also found time to visit the zoo that conservationist Steve Irwin opened before his untimely death, which she said was one of the highlights. ”It was a nice break from training and competing, and seeing the kangaroos and koala bears was fantastic”.
She loved coming over to Portugal and already has plans to return, but this time she will bring her swimming club with her to train at Brown’s Sport and Leisure Club. She said the facilities were “amazing”, especially for swimmers because of the heavyweights gymnasium.
Olympic trials begin next March, but for now Jessica will focus on Nationals in August. She said her ultimate goal is to be part of the 2012 London Olympics and even win a gold medal.
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