Michael Jamieson

3rd May 2013 at 01:00
For the Olympic silver medallist, early work with an influential coach brought a stroke of good fortune

I was quite young when I moved to the School of Sport - I was only 12 or 13 and on a normal school day I would travel from my home in Robroyston to Tollcross Leisure Centre and swim from 5.30am to 7.30am. Then I would be out of water and across the city for a 9am start at school.

I would have standard core lessons from 9am until 10.30am, have the interval and from then until lunchtime we would have a training session in the pool or gym and often a classroom session to supplement that. After the lunch break, we would be back in lessons with our classmates.

It was difficult. I remember at times falling asleep in school after being up at 4.45am, and after school I would be back at Tollcross for another swimming session.

But I absolutely loved it. I felt privileged to get into the school and I have no doubt that being there and under swimming coach Bill Penny's influence in particular helped me get to the stage I am at now.

Bill started teaching me from the first year of secondary and all the way through high school. He was my swimming coach within the school hours and he was in charge of some of the theory sessions, like sport psychology and nutrition.

He worked really closely on my technique across all strokes and he had the mindset that technique was as important as conditioning. Technique is probably one of my strengths to this day, and it is largely down to working with Bill.

He was from New Zealand and was in his early sixties. He was a professional rugby player in his heyday, representing the All Blacks, so he had a few amazing stories of his life and his sporting career. He was quite broad, dark skinned and with a great head of hair - even in his sixties he had quite long, curly hair.

He always looked like he was deep in thought - like he could either crack a joke or be on your case getting you into trouble for something. You never quite knew which way it was going to go.

He was a well-travelled man and we were really lucky to have him as a teacher and a coach. He is such an accomplished guy - he could have had his pick of sporting jobs throughout the world.

Bill had two sides. He was a really laid back and calm character, but still had the ability to really come down on you if need be. He is a really intelligent guy with so many views on how athletes should be trained and how you should conduct yourself in the classroom and as a person.

He was primarily there to improve my swimming, but he had such an effect on other areas of my life. He taught me basic values like respect and a set of skills that you don't really realise the importance of at a young age - things like general conduct, punctuality, time management and self- discipline. He taught us how to juggle school work and our athletic commitments.

I had decided at a young age that I wanted to be a professional athlete, so school was a bit of an inconvenience. It took me until S5 or S6 before Bill really came down hard on me and said: "You really need to get your finger out to get enough Highers under your belt to give you the option at least of attending university."

I need to thank him again for doing that. To be in the position I am in just now - about to graduate with a degree from the University of Bath - is just amazing.

I keep in loose contact with Bill, and he was there at the Olympics to watch the race, which was pretty special. He really did have a huge influence on me.

Michael Jamieson is currently training for the Swimming World Championships, which will take place in Barcelona, 19 July to 4 August. He was talking to Julia Belgutay

Personal profile

Born: August 1988 in Glasgow

Education: St Joseph's Primary, Stepps, St Helen's Primary, Bishopbriggs, Glasgow School of Sport at Bellahouston Academy, University of Bath

Career: Student, swimmer, silver medallist at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

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