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Swimmer Bree dreams of the Beijing podium

By David Kelly

If dreams do come true then Andrew Bree will standing on the podium in Beijing.

“I had this crazy one where I was swimming at this amazing rate and everything was just flying, just super fast and it was so real I’m thinking am I supposed to put this into practice in training!” said Bree as he pondered what could be in Beijing.

The Helen’s Bay man certainly has his sights on a place in the 200m breaststroke semi-finals and anything less will come as a disappointment, simply because of how well he has prepared.

“Nobody in the world could have prepared more than he has,” says coach Jim Rumbaugh and Bree believes he can be in the final hunting a medal.

“I think the key for me is to just relax more, the way I was in Dublin in 2003 when I just arrived after dong exams and got in and performed and got a silver medal. That was short course and I’m a much better long course swimmer,“ said Bree.

“Although it’s going to be hard, I just have to forget that it’s Beijing and treat like any other meet.“

As Bree looks ahead to his Beijing odyssey he can reflect on four years of highs and lows, starting with the disappointment of missing out on Athens by a fraction, losing motivation for the sport, gaining it again before the Commonwealth Games in 2006, having his funding disgracefully axed by Sport Northern Ireland before a year later automatically qualifying for the Olympics with 12 months to spare.

And of course earlier this year there was the trauma of a failed drugs test detected at the European short course championships in Debrecen, Hungary when an over-the-counter nasal spray contained a small amount of a banned substance.

Thankfully he was cleared by swimming’s World governing body of any attempt to enhance his performance and it was simply put down to a silly error which could have cost him so much.

With that behind him Bree went on to set new Irish records for the 100m breaststroke and 200m individual medley at the British championships in Liverpool last month.

“Back in 2004 I took very badly that I didn’t make it to Athens and for a while I didn’t have the drive to go and give everything in practice and that probably lasted a year where I just enjoyed myself.

“But then about three or four months before the Commonwealth Games I decided to work hard and I went to Melbourne and finished fifth again and equalled Michael Williamson’s Irish record.

“Having trained so little and done a 2:14 I knew then that I had to really start pushing hard again. But even at that, I haven’t trained or been so focused or so obsessed with the sport as I have over the past 12 months. It’s not being obsessed in a bad way but I’ve looked so much more deeply into the sport and into every aspect,” he said.

“After getting the A time last year for Beijing the past 12 months have just all been about the Olympics. I haven’t had a proper rest before a meet so I know when I go to Beijing if I swim my race I’m going to be flying.

“I’m 27 and getting faster and there is so much more to come. I thought Beijing might be the end for me but if I do well I really have to think about going to the Commonwealth Games in two years time and in between there are Euros and Worlds

“I’m very thankful that I’m here and still fulfiling my potential and to be honest in terms of funding if it wasn’t for my mum and dad I wouldn’t be nowhere. They have sacrificed a lot and I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Bree, as optimistic a person as you are likely to meet, believes anything is possible particularly after witnessing the biggest shock in swimming this year when former World record holder Brendan Hansen failed to qualify.

“In was sitting there watching NBC who gave the big build up for Hansen and I’m wondering if he’ll get close to the world record but then at the final turn he got burned and the commentator is going crazy, “Hansen’s in trouble” I couldn’t believe it.

“But in swimming you just never know because it is so technical and everything just has to come together.

“I’ve set Irish records in the 100m breast and 200 IM and I haven’t even been rested so bring on Beijing and the best in the world because I’ll be ready.”

Belfast Telegraph


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