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Andrew Bree enters crucial phase in race to reach London 2012

Andrew Bree is facing up to three of the hardest months of his career as he seeks to claim medals at two major meets in three months.

Bree, who returns home to compete in this week's Irish Open championships in the National Aquatic Centre, is aiming to make a big impact at the European long course championships in Budapest next month before focusing on the Commonwealth Games in October.

For many at 29 it could be the case of a swansong but Bree still has the long term goal of London 2012 and his move to work with the world renowned Dr Dave Salo at the University of Southern California has fired his desire more than ever.

Salo continues to work with some of the cream of world swimming and the Helen's Bay man clearly believes that working with such notable names as Olympic 200m breaststroke champion Kosuke Kitajima and Austria's Olympic silver medallist and 2008 World 200m backstroke champion Markus Rogan will rub off on him.

Bree, who performed very well at the recent Mare Nostrum series in Europe, said: “I couldn't have wished for a better environment to work in.

“With so many champions around me, you can't help but be inspired.

“There's a great atmosphere in training because everybody has the same relentless desire to succeed, everybody's a winner.

“Kitajima is obviously the best in the world at my stroke, the 200m breaststroke, and to train with him every day and to race him in training is just fantastic.

“Dr Salo has been great. He liked what he saw in my performances at the Mare Nostrum but obviously there have been things to work on and hopefully I will see the benefit of them in the Europeans and especially the Commonwealth Games.

“The Mare Nostrum series was great for me because it was the first major meet without the suits and I felt that my times were very good.

“The top times have changed a lot because the suits are not being used but I was right up there with the best guys in Europe.

“Hopefully I can have a good swim at the Irish championships and then we're off to a training camp to get ready for Budapest.

“Again we have a strong Irish team which obviously helps the whole atmosphere in training.”

Bree is expected to jet in on Friday before competing on Saturday and Sunday.

European junior bronze medallist Sycerika McMahon will also be competing this week along with the rest of the European championships squad, which means for the first time in years the big guns of the sport will be at the Irish championships.

Belfast Telegraph