Olympics: Old pro David Carry says shift in mentality means losing is no longer an option

DAVID Carry is the oldest member of Great Britain’s swimming team, the most experienced, and if his comments yesterday are anything to go by, the most grateful. The 30-year-old Aberdonian, who is preparing for his third consecutive Olympic Games, cannot quite believe the extent to which the sport has changed since he dipped his toes in the competitive water.

Speaking at Edinburgh’s Commonwealth Pool yesterday, Carry said that it was a privilege to be surrounded by so many medal prospects. The 400m freestyle swimmer does not count himself among them, but he is revelling in the fact he will be rounding off his Olympic career in such exalted company.

“Really, thinking back to when I started on the British team, we were just grateful to be going to the Olympics. That was the big thing: get that tracksuit, get on that plane, and we’d made it. Then the mentality changed under [national performance director] Bill Sweetenham. He reinforced the idea that it wasn’t good enough. The minimum requirement should be making finals.

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“Now, in this team, people are going to be disappointed if they don’t win medals. We have seen such a huge shift in opinions and mentality over the last 12 years. The expectation level in our camp is really quite exciting.”

Carry has also seen his sport’s profile change out of all recognition. Rebecca Adlington played a big part in that four years ago. Scotland’s Hannah Miley has the potential to achieve similar fame if she wins gold in the 400m individual medley on Saturday night. Fran Halsall, chasing five medals, and Keri-Anne Payne, to whom Carry will be married in September, are among numerous others with the potential to reach out and touch the masses.

“It really has been a huge change,” he says. “We’ve got household names in this team. A few years ago, you’d be able to walk past the entire British team and not know any of them. So it’s really exciting to be part of that, to know that the public are following us on our journey.”

Carry feels like fate is on his side. Not only are his last Olympics on home soil, he is better prepared for them than any of his others. Even the holding camp in Edinburgh’s Commonwealth Pool, where he swam in his first Scottish Schools meet 19 years ago, has him misty-eyed.

“It has been absolutely brilliant, coming back to the place where it all started. It still gives me that nervous, horrible feeling in my stomach. Those meets were the most nerve-racking I have ever done in my whole career. So just to get that feeling again, and see how much this place has improved, is the perfect preparation.

“To have this as my third and final Olympics, the way it has all come together… it really has been a kind of fairytale ending. I’m really excited to know that I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I’m swimming faster than I ever have.”

He has not yet decided whether he will retire after London 2012, but if he does, he would love to bow out with an appearance in the 400m freestyle final. That would be up there with the two gold medals he won at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. “That is my number-one goal. I’ve never been able to make an individual final at the Olympics before. It would be my gold medal, it really would.”

Robbie Renwick, another Aberdonian, will enter the fray on Saturday, together with Miley. Carry is reluctant to predict how many medals will be won by Scots, but he makes no secret of his belief that the team as a whole will end these Games with a barrowload.

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“You just need to look at the world rankings to know that we are in pretty good shape. It’s quite exciting that this team will go there in the best shape ever, with the best team we have ever had, to our home Olympics. And we all know from past experience that home advantage is quite considerable. So we are excited about what could happen.”