By James Kemble
As part of Team USA’s ‘Britain Bound’ tour, Rebecca Soni spoke to a number of invited guests on Thursday evening at University of East London’s, Stratford Campus. The Olympic Gold Medallist Swimmer goes into next year’s games in London as one of the favourites but that was far from the story last time around in Beijing. The New Jersey born swimmer revealed she didn’t even qualify for the 100m Breaststroke in which she won a Silver medal, while winning Gold in the 200m.
‘Going to trials I got so nervous that I didn’t make the team, I should have with my times but I got so nervous and swam off my time. I ended up making it in the 200 (m) and later on a week before the games started one of my team mates had to withdraw, so I was getting into an event I didn’t make in the first place’.
Due to not qualifying originally in the 100m, Rebecca used it as a warm up to her 200m Breaststroke, she felt far more relaxed and so the performance followed, collecting a Silver Medal that no one had anticipated she could win.
In the 200m Soni collected the Gold, beating hotly tipped favourite and then current World Record holder Leisel Jones of Australia.
With the London 2012 Olympics just around the corner and with the emphasis on the games inspiring the youth of this country, Rebecca was asked who she watched and aspired to when she was growing up.
‘I think it was the Sydney games in 2000, I was starting to get interested in professional swimmers and to see who was competing in the Olympics. But we only had one TV but my Dad didn’t allow us to watch the TV and had this silly device that locked it so me and my mum went around the neighbours houses to see if we could see any of the Olympics. I didn’t really watch much I guess there were a couple of local heroes that grew up in my area such as Tom Wilkinson who was a swimmer but that’s it really. ‘
Having already been part of one Olympics and seen the Olympic park in Beijing, I asked Rebecca how she feels an Olympic Park can help regenerate an area and help the local community.
‘I think it’s great, moving into the village in Beijing and hearing how they were converting them into apartments after the games, I think their using the Water Cube now as a sort of amusement park or Water park right now, so I think it’s really cool how they’re using it post games’.
Next year’s games will be different for Rebecca, she comes into the games as the one to beat, but she is relishing the challenge of taking on the World’s best on the best stage of the world in the London 2012 Olympics.
Pictured Rebecca Soni with UEL Sports Scholarship students; from left to right:
Loucaides Kleovoulos, Andre Fernadez, Rebecca Soni, Zara Hohn, David Loveday.