Andrew Willis wants to come home with a pair of gold medals
Andrew Willis can not wait to come home for Christmas – so long as he arrives bearing gift-wrapped gold medals.
The Great Britain swimmer has two major Short Course events to negotiate this week before he can even think about returning to his Yateley home to join in the family festivities.
The 200m breaststroke star has set his sights on the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next summer, but first must undergo a punishing winter schedule if he is to fulfil his ambition and stay on track for a final tilt at an Olympic medal in Rio 2016.
That schedule starts in earnest this weekend when Willis takes part in the European Short Course Championships in Denmark where he takes on a high-class international field in the more unfamiliar surroundings of a 25m pool.
And there's no let up for the 23-year-old as he then flies immediately to the Scottish Commonwealth venue to swim for the European All-Stars team against the USA in the Duel in the Pool competition.
Only then can he then start thinking about swapping a swim hat for a party hat and returning home to family and friends before it starts all over again in the new year.
“I'm really looking forward to coming home for Christmas this year,” Willis, who finished eighth in the London 2012 final, told the News & Mail. “It's always quite surreal when I go home and I really feel the support of everyone back there and on my travels.
“I'd love to go back there with two good performances under my belt though, starting this weekend.
“Short Course events are really good for my technique and turns, which I feel is one of my strengths, so to get good practice in time for the international Long Course events in the new year – is very worthwhile. It's good for me.
“Competing in the Duel in the Pool next week will be another good experience for me. I remember watching the event on TV in 2009 when it was held in Manchester, it looked so much fun.
“More importantly though it's being held in the same pool as the Commonwealths and the English trials in April so it'll be good to get used to the surroundings.”
But it's not just medals that Willis has set his sights on next year – it’s bragging rights over training partner and Great Britain team-mate Michael Jamieson.
The pair are neck-and-neck as performances and achievements go but Scot Jamieson is desperate to win Commonwealth gold in front of a partisan home crowd next summer.
“He wants it really badly, but, then again, so do I,” Willis added. “There’s a lot of talk about our rivalry, but it’s all friendly, there is no tension there between us at all.
“I get on really well with Michael in training and out of the pool and if anything we give each other that little extra edge and incentive.
“When we are competing against each other though the focus is solely on the race and we both know that we have big years in front of us.”
l Andrew Willis is part of the British Gas GBR Swimming Team. British Gas are trying to get more people swimming regularly by 2015 through SwimBritain, a series of team relay events, coached sessions and training plans.