Inside the pool: Unseen Jamaica – a young swimmer sets her sights on the Olympics

Sabrina Lopes was only eight years old when she decided she wanted to be a swimmer. She has been training at the Nickco Swim Club, Waltham Abbey, and has since represented Jamaica in the…

Inside the pool: Unseen Jamaica – a young swimmer sets her sights on the Olympics

Sabrina Lopes was only eight years old when she decided she wanted to be a swimmer. She has been training at the Nickco Swim Club, Waltham Abbey, and has since represented Jamaica in the Olympics – and taken part in two world championships – in Africa and in Rome. But now a second world title and ambitions to one day compete at the London Olympics beckon

Take me back to your childhood

I love to swim. I’ve been training for it for four years now, and it’s what I love doing. I have been participating in swimming competitions in Jamaica since I was about eight years old. And then, last year, the year before I turned 13, I got the opportunity to compete for Jamaica. It was a wonderful experience and I’ve been involved in it ever since. I’m now 18 years old. It’s been an enjoyable journey.

Who helped you through your struggles to win the title?

I’ve been doing swimming since I was four. So I was only eight years old when I started to get serious with it. I haven’t really been in the problem area of herding other swimmers around, because I have trained hard. My coach, Elijah Miller, has been amazing. He’s a very supportive man, and has been helping me throughout my training.

How have your Jamaican swim lessons influenced your life?

I love Jamaican culture. They’re so fun, and have made me very happy. We all compete together and have a little bit of fun at the end of it. It’s not just about the swim competitions, we all get along. And not only in our country but around the world, we’re all one in Jamaica. We are very close. I’m still friends with all of my teammates. It’s great to see all of them because swimming has helped me a lot.

How would you describe your sport?

My sport is sprinting, open water swimming and backstroke. Open water swimming is the longest stroke in swimming and involves swimming in salt water. It’s really hard. It’s really, really difficult because you have to go out there and swim every day.

How would you describe your fitness level?

I would say at the moment I’m relatively average, when compared to other swimters.

How much of a chance do you think you have at an Olympic medal?

I’m relatively positive in terms of the medals I have achieved so far, but I definitely have my work cut out for me if I want to compete at the Olympics. I have the world champs coming up in April and will probably not make it to Rome in May, but when I get there I’ll be knocking at the door.

Could it be the London Olympics?

London is definitely on my mind. I’m expecting something big from the Games. I already have my eyes on 2020 in Tokyo.

Do you have any European plans?

Yes, I’m going to join up with the Fina Intercontinental Swimming Club, and swim in Barcelona. I also have a coach in Poland who is also working with me. And another coach that’s working with me will be next year.

What skills do you need to succeed at the international stage?

My endurance. I swim very well in the big waves, and I swim well on fast boats, but I need endurance so I can do the lanes.

Was there an amazing moment when you made it to the Olympics?

During Rome 2008, I placed sixth. But then when I got the invitation to fly to Beijing, I knew it was time to step up my training. It was an amazing experience. It was the first time for me in Africa, and I travelled up with my teammate. It was a wonderful experience all round.

Would you have liked to have represented England as a swimmer?

Yes, I actually did. But unfortunately I only qualified for Jamaica, and Jamaica doesn’t give up its medal winners, so in the end they didn’t let me represent them, so I didn’t get the chance.

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