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High Note For Jazz The Racer

Feb 20, 2010  - Craig Lord

When Bill Sweetenham, performance director for Britain, accompanied a group of 12 young teenage girls to Mexico for training and a race tour in the US - taking in the US Open as their first exposure to senior international waters - with coaches and tutors in tow, the 13th girl stayed home. Jazz (Jazmin) Carlin was ill, and Sweetenham said: "That's a great pity cos she's got that mongrel factor you look for. But she'll  get better and she'll be something else."

 Carlin's coach, Bud McCallister, mentor to one of the all-time greats of swimming, Janet Evans and recruited to Britain by Sweetenham, preferred to talk in pedigree terms: "She's a pitbull." 

 Back in 2005, Carlin was coached by Lesley Leffers at Tigersharks in Swindon. She was destined for a big journey, one, as fate would have it, with a home Games to add extra spice and one that would place her in the path the man behind Evans, four-times Olympic gold medallist and a girl who wind-milled in perpetual motion past rivals on steroids at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. 

The 4:03.65 400m world record she set on her way victory ahead of East Germans in Seoul would last until Laure Manaudou (FRA) got to it in 2006. The 8:16.22 and 15:52.10 world marks she set over 800m and 1,500m in 1989 and 1988 respectively would last until Rebecca Adlington (GBR) in 2008 and Kate Ziegler (USA) in 2007. 

In Swansea at the duel between Germany and Britain, McAllister eyes lit up as he spoke about Carlin after watching her clock 4:06.41 (just 0.22sec slower than her shiny suit best) as her opening international 400m in the new era of textile suits ahead of Olympic and world medallists Adlington and Joanne Jackson. Recruited to Britain by Sweetenham and based here at the Swansea Intensive Training Centre in Wales (one of the centres that stem from Sweetenham's blueprint for Britain), McAllister said: "I was expecting her to swim fast but not that fast. She has been training very well. We were talking 4:08, 4:09 but she's really tough and it definitely helps to have the home crowd. After that I can't wait for London [2012], she thrives on that."

With a nod to Martyn Woodroffe, Wales national performance director and 1968 Olympic silver medal winner in the 200m butterfly, McAllister added: "He calls her a pitbull because once she gets her teeth into it she won't let go. Rottweiler, pitbull, whatever, she's tough. You can't teach that."

Carlin laughed at the description, while Jackson joined in and said: "Well, she doesn't look like one." Jackson, world silver and Olympic bronze medallist said it was "absolutely fantastic" for Britain to have a line-up of world class women freestylers and predicted that there would be more to come, via a Commonwealth Games at which the Brits will be split into home nations and present an even greater pack force up against Australia. 

Asked about Evans and the spirit she had, he added: "The best thing with Janet was she had no limits. She swam fast to beat people. Jaz has that same attitude, she's a racer. And it doesn't matter who is ahead of her - whether they're on steroids like the East Germans (in the 1970s and 80s) or two of the three fastest in the world. She's got the same mentality, whatever it takes to win. You don't see that very often. I haven't felt this excited for a long time."

Carlin, who looked back on the events of 2005 and the journey since with fondness, said: "I always enjoy a really good race. We wanted to come away with a 1-2-3." Unphased by the return to textile suits, she said: "I think it's a good opportunity for other people just to get in and race tough. I think it will show the tough from the weak and I think it's a good thing. I think I'm a tough competitor so anything that is thrown at me I've got to give it my best shot so I didn't really notice a big difference (post suits) but my chest was quite sore at the end."