O’Con­nor has a mind to win a medal now

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - RIO 2016 - by Daniel Schofield

Siob­han-Marie O’Con­nor is the per­fect ex­am­ple of how Bill Fur­niss has trans­formed the mind­set of Bri­tish Swim­ming.

Four years ago at Lon­don 2012, O’Con­nor was the youngest swim­mer in Bri­tain’s squad at 16 and, like many of her far more ex­pe­ri­enced team-mates, was a lit­tle girl lost in the swirl of bright lights and height­ened pub­lic ex­pec­ta­tions.

“It was an ab­so­lute whirl­wind,” says O’Con­nor who failed to ad­vance from her 100m breast­stroke heats. The dif­fer­ence un­der head coach Fur­niss is strik­ing. There are no pas­sen­gers in the 26-strong squad in Rio. At the Bri­tish tri­als, the bar for qual­i­fi­ca­tion was raised sev­eral rungs so win­ners of some events missed out.

“It was one tri­als, one chance,” O’Con­nor said. “You had to de­liver there and then.”

O’Con­nor be­gins her 200m in­di­vid­ual med­ley cam­paign, in which she has won Euro­pean sil­ver and World bronze, to­day.

“I did not go to Lon­don purely for the ex­pe­ri­ence but in hind­sight that’s what I took away from it,” O’Con­nor said. “I am four years older, I am swim­ming quicker times and I do have goals in my mind.”

Un­be­known to her, O’Con­nor was com­pet­ing at Lon­don 2012 while suf­fer­ing ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis, a chronic bowel con­di­tion also suf­fered by Sir Steve Red­grave and for­mer Eng­land rugby cap­tain Lewis Moody. “Look­ing back, I have no idea how I man­aged that.”

The con­di­tion can leave her run down and sus­cep­ti­ble to ill­ness, but O’Con­nor said: “Ev­ery­one has chal­lenges. This is just my thing I have to deal with.”

Set­ting an ex­am­ple: O’Con­nor is faster than when she com­peted at Lon­don 2012

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