10 August 2018
Clegg feeling confident ahead of second European Championships
It has been a steep learning curve for Paralympian Stephen Clegg since returning to pool after giving up swimming as a youngster, having fallen out of love with the sport.
The 22-year-old, who has Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, started swimming when he was 11 but hung up his speedos for several years before deciding to give it another shot four years ago.
Despite only beginning to train seriously two years before, he went on to make his Paralympic debut at Rio 2016 – following in the footsteps of siblings and London 2012 medallists Libby and James.
And with two major championships now under his belt, Clegg is feeling more confident than ever about his medal chances ahead of the World Para Swimming European Championships in Dublin.
“Preparation has gone really well, I’ve just started my taper which is my rest phase going into the European Championships so I’m starting to feel a bit fresher and stronger,” he said.
“It’s my second Europeans and third major competition. The Europeans in 2016 was my first major competition and I was a bit nervous, but I felt relatively comfortable with it.
“Then going to the Paralympic Games I was very nervous, my first event was the 400m freestyle and going out into that environment was absolutely terrifying.
“As the meet progressed, I felt more and more comfortable with myself and I think going into the Europeans, I feel I will be in an even more stronger mental place.
“Every major championships you go to you learn a lot and this will be my third going from 2016 when I was 20 and relatively new into the sport as I only started swimming seriously at 18.
“I’ve been on a progression curve with my learning experiences and how I’ve developed as a swimmer, so going into this European Championships, especially with it being so close to home, I’m feeling much more confident.”
Stephen Clegg competing at Rio 2016
Clegg, who describes his vision as “half a metre in my right eye and a little more in my left”, said he is now enjoying the sport in a way he never did when he was younger.
“When I was at school I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” he said. “I started swimming when I was young, so I was about 11, but then I stopped for quite a period of time.
“I didn’t get my university grades and I thought I’d try swimming again and I’ve been on a massive learning curve since then, which has been really good, and I’ve really enjoyed it.
“At first I just wanted to get back into shape and just enjoy the sport as the reason I stopped when I was younger was because I stopped enjoying it.
“As I’ve progressed, I’ve enjoyed it more and more and more in different ways, training aspects and competition, but what I really enjoy is the daily challenges in training.”
As I’ve progressed, I’ve enjoyed it more and more and more in different ways.
The Newcastleton swimmer will be in action in four events in Dublin, but his main focus will be the 100m butterfly as he looks to medal and achieve a lifetime best.
“I’ve got the 100m freestyle, 100m back, 50m freestyle and also the 100m butterfly, which is my main event, but I’m not expecting too much from the first three,” he said.
“Whatever happens if I come out with a medal from them I’ll be very happy with that and a PB is also really good, just time targets rather than medal targets.
“For my 100m butterfly, I’ll be expecting to come away with a medal and, hopefully, a lifetime best. Every major championship now is looking forward to Tokyo and a Paralympic Games.
“Each major championship is a learning experience and it’s just about going into this and seeing what I can learn for the next one.”
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