Our Olympians: Swimmer’s focus unwavering

Nanaimo's Tommy Gossland will swim the 4x100-metre freestyle relay for Canada at the 2012 London Olympics.

Nanaimo swimmer Tommy Gossland autographs a flag at the Liftoff to London rally at Diana Krall Plaza last month. Gossland will swim the 4x100-metre relay at the Olympics.

Nanaimo swimmer Tommy Gossland autographs a flag at the Liftoff to London rally at Diana Krall Plaza last month. Gossland will swim the 4x100-metre relay at the Olympics.

When Nanaimo’s Tommy Gossland dives into the pool at the Olympic Games, it won’t be his first time at London’s Aquatics Centre.

He got a look at the facility in 2009, as a part of Canada’s senior B team. The experience should have inspired Gossland, but he said it had the opposite effect – he felt entitled, and thought it would be easy to remain an international-calibre swimmer. It wasn’t. He struggled and by the start of this 2011-12 season, he found himself at a crossroads.

“I made one decision. I was going to give everything I had to do well this year,” Gossland said. “And after that, every decision I had to make was easy. It was just laid out in front of me.”

His efforts took him to Olympic trials in Montreal, where he touched the wall in time to claim a spot on Canada’s 4×100-metre freestyle relay team.

Since then, the former Nanaimo White Rapids and Nanaimo Riptides standout has spent so much time in the water racing that he must surely have wrinkly fingertips. In June, he spent two weeks travelling around Europe, racing continually and gaining experience.

“They’ve either gone well or been good practice,” he joked.

The training isn’t much different as an Olympian, Gossland said.

“They’re kind of going with the mentality that if it’s got you to that point, it’s probably the best to stick with it until the Olympics.”

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t sought out the advice of teammates who have swum on the big stage.

“They’re giving me tips on what to expect, how to react, what to do, what not to do,” he said. “And hopefully I’ll be better prepared. But you can only talk about it or hear about it so much. I’m going to keep my head down until my race is done.”

Focus has become one of the 23-year-old’s greatest strengths as an athlete, ever since he made that one decision to pour all his might into the pool. Gossland knows what it may take at the Olympics, because he knows how much it took to get to the Olympics.

“Before my trials race … I knew that I had done absolutely everything I could have possibly done to be ready for that moment,” he said. “And it’s going to happen again in London.”

GAMES ON … Tommy Gossland swims the 4x100m freestyle relay heats Sunday (July 29) at 3:53 a.m. PST. If Canada reaches the final, that race will be Sunday at 12:54 p.m. … Mike Mason, a high jumper from Nanoose Bay, has his qualifying jumps on Aug. 5 at 11:05 a.m. If he reaches the final, it will be Aug. 7 at 11 a.m. … Mike Leigh, a sailor born in Nanaimo but sailing out of Vancouver, races in the 470 event starting Aug. 2 at 4 a.m.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com