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Dunford Moves On With Skip In His Step

May 18, 2012  - Craig Lord

Jason Dunford, a pioneer of African swimming, has moved back to Europe to the international squad run by Italian coach Andrea Di Nino after completing a masters degree in Earth Systems at Stanford University in the US - and a masters in life courtesy of coach Skip Kenney.

A graduate in human biology in 2009, Dunford will race for Kenya at London 2012 four years after becoming the first swimmer from his country to qualify for the Olympic Games on athletic merit. 

His move back to Europe reflects the difference of seasons American and other, the US, having done the heavy lifting, now in the final stages of preparation and then taper for Olympic trials in late June, while the rest of the world is largely done with selection and is now in the midst of its next block of heavy lifting.

Dunford rejoined the ADN Swim Project earlier this month on the eve of the squad's current altitude camp in the Sierra Nevada. They come down from on high a few days out from June racing at the Barcelona leg of the Mare Nostrum Tour. Further tests include the Sette Colli (Seven Hills) meet in Rome, the Aspria Cup in Milan and the Paris Open. 

"By rejoining ADN I got this opportunity to train at high altitude and also will be able to race in the four meets … the focus for the majority of the Stanford team is the US trials and as such it would have become increasingly difficult to maintain my volume as they started their taper," Dunford tells SwimNews.

His days of learning in the US may be behind him but the rewards and memories will flow on down the years. This week marked the retirement of Stanford coach Skip Kenney. 

Dunford notes: "Skip Kenney has had a huge impact on my life and I feel privileged to have been coached by him. It was he who had the foresight to allow me to walk on to the Stanford team back in 2005 and then proceeded to mould me into an elite level swimmer.

"By working with him on my technique he helped me build my butterfly such that I could be competitive on the world stage. I learned so much from him about leadership, respect and the true meaning of 'team', lessons I will carry for the rest of my life long after hanging up my suit. 

"My days as a collegiate swimmer at Stanford will remain some of the fondest of my life and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be part of his dynasty. I wish him all the best in his retirement."

No finer tribute can there be for a coach than such words from a pupil who understood and embraced the notion that self-improvement in swimming spills well beyond the water, well beyond sport, well beyond the here and now.

On that note, the link with Di Nino makes perfect sense, the Italian coach also from the school of those who see broader horizons while focussing on getting the best out of their charges in the pool.