WHEN he spied Ryan Giggs sitting at the next table in the competitors’ dining hall, Warrender’s Craig Benson suddenly realised the magnitude of being a member of Team GB for the Olympic Games.
“It’s been a lot to take in,” admitted the 18-year-old, who is the youngest male swimmer in the home line-up. “But I am really enjoying every moment. It’s so exciting.”
Benson, who left Livingston’s James Young High School in the summer, got his room key for the Olympic Village last week before heading to Edinburgh and the team holding camp at the Royal Commonwealth Pool. Tomorrow, it will be back to London for the final preparations before the swimming starts on Saturday.
Benson will line up in the 100m breaststroke at London 2012 and the World Junior Champion has set his goals. “I want to set a personal best time and race hard,” he said. “I want to do the best I can.”
Fellow-Scot Michael Jamieson, a former City of Edinburgh swimmer, will be in the same event, but both say it’ll be a friendly rivalry.
“We are good friends but we will both want to get the breaststroke berth for the relay,” said Benson. “Michael has been really good, and so has the whole team in helping me settle in.
“The most amazing moment so far was seeing Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy (Team GB footballers) sitting behind me at breakfast. It’s surreal to think that we are actually in the same team. But I won’t get over-excited. I can switch off quite easily and, at the moment, I’m just enjoying the build-up and taking it day by day.”
In London, the youngster will have plenty of support – Mum Janice, Dad Nigel and his brother, Andrew, all have swimming tickets.
Jamieson, from Glasgow, was delighted to be back “home” at the Commonwealth Pool. “I swam for City of Edinburgh for three years so I feel very calm and relaxed being back here for the training camp,” he said.
The 23-year-old will be competing in both the 100m and 200m breaststroke – and is one of the medal possibilities in the longer event.
He struggled with nerves at the trials back in March, but is confident he will be able to cope with the pressure during the Games. “When you’ve trained so hard for something for so long, the trials are one-off make-or-break,” he explained.
“They were a real career changing event. But now that I’m in the team I know I enjoy high-pressure competition. It’s the first time that I have see the new Commonwealth Pool and it’s so much faster and brighter. We’ve also had it all to ourselves this week which has been terrific.”
Warrender’s David Wilkie won gold in the 200m breaststroke and a silver in the 100m at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.
Benson met his hero for the first time at the opening of the newly-renovated Commonwealth Pool. Jamieson has watched videos of the Scottish sporting legend and he said: “If I could get even close to what David Wilkie achieved it would be amazing.”
Two lads with strong Edinburgh connections will be trying their best.