James Wilby came close to quitting swimming after the disappointing of Tokyo 2020 but he rolled back the years and demonstrated remarkable bravery on his way to Commonwealth silver in Birmingham.
The 28-year-old was a shock winner of the 200m breaststroke four years ago in the Gold Coast but retaining his title would have been even more surprising with the untouchable Zac Stubblety-Cook, the world record holder and Olympic champion the red-hot favourite.
To beat him, Wilby was going to have to take a chance, and he did that by going out inside world record pace, only getting overhauled by the Australian in the final metres.
It was a daring swim and earned its reward for a man who came close to hanging up his goggles last year.
He said: “I wanted to get out there and try to be brave. Zac's got a phenomenal back 50 and it was always going to be that race down that last 15.
“I'm really happy, it's been a strange year, a bit of a roller coaster, so I'm really happy to do that. I'm up against the world record holder, one of the most impressive 200m breaststrokers in the world, so to put in a good race and challenge him for that top spot, I'm very happy with that effort.
“Basically I came off the back of the Olympics and really struggled with where I was at and not knowing whether I wanted to continue swimming. It was a pretty rough two years leading into the Olympics and that all kind of came crashing down after.
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“I had to take a bit of time out the water, slowly rebuild into the water, get expert help and really work on myself. That's put me in a really good position so I'm just really happy.”
Wilby was joined on the podium by Scotland’s Ross Murdoch, a good friend, who was similarly close to retiring following Tokyo.
And while both are clearly proud to represent their respective nations, there was clearly joy for both to be back on the podium at the Commonwealth Games.
For Wilby, simply enjoying his swimming again is a success in itself.
He added: “That's put me in a really good position so I'm just really happy. Whatever medal I get, whatever place I get, as long as I put in the effort. The main thing for me now is just being happy in the sport and really making my family proud. That's a win in my book.”
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