Fran Halsall interview
The European and Commonwealth champion swimmer talks exclusively with WF.
Team GB’s vivacious 21-year-old European and Commonwealth champ is targeting a quintet of Olympic medals this summer. She discusses her varied training regime, doughnut addiction and a Speedo-clad Brad Pitt.
Five events would mean 13 swims in eight days in London… Are you prepared?
If I qualify, it will be a really busy week! Fortunately, I’ve done 13 swims before at the European Championships and Commonwealth Games, so I’ve practised. I’ve been in the aquatics centre already and they’ve done a great job, so I can’t wait to race there.
Would you prefer to win one gold over several silver and bronze medals?
The ‘G’ is the one. It’s funny because I’ve kind of waded through everything I’ve done recently, yet ever since I started swimming, I’ve wanted to win an Olympic gold medal. I haven’t done that yet, so I still haven’t succeeded. In Beijing I was just 19, but now into my twenties, I’m getting on a bit!
Since the Beijing Olympics, what do you think you’ve improved on most?
I think my strength has definitely improved. I’ve worked a lot on toning my body, because in the water, especially in the sprint events, you’ve got to have that level of strength to head through the pool as fast as possible.
At just 5ft 7in, is your height a disadvantage against taller rivals in the pool?
The good thing about swimming is there are lots of different sizes. Look across any event and you won’t see a standard size. Yes, we’re all fit and in shape, but there’s no height that’s a disadvantage. Work to your own advantages and you’ll get the best out of yourself.
Your training isn’t just restricted to the Loughborough pool, is it?
To boost fitness at the start of the season we’ll do Pilates, kickboxing, rock climbing, canoeing – you name it, we do it! Even ballet is beneficial as it’s core-related and you’re thinking where your hands are and what your feet are doing, as you would in the pool.
Having suffered ankle ligament trouble, how did you overcome despondency?
I literally made a positive out of a negative, focusing on aspects that would benefit me that I wouldn’t normally put at the forefront of my training. While I couldn’t swim I evaluated areas of improvement and, using the rowing machine and the hand bike, I worked on my upper-body strength in the gym.
Your partner, Alistair Wilson, represents Team GB in men’s hockey. Does sport tend to dictate your life as a couple?
Sport is definitely not off-limits for us. We’re both very competitive, which is funny, but we spur each other on. If he’s in the gym, I’ll wind him up, telling him it’s ridiculous if he doesn’t do a certain amount of squats. But on a more serious note, it is really nice to be with someone who’s been to an Olympics – and someone who understands why I have to go to bed at 9pm on a Friday night!
Does your competitive nature spill out from the pool into everyday life?
Yes, unfortunately! I’m awful at anything I’ve got to win at, like Monopoly, for instance. I’ve got to get Mayfair. If I can’t win it, I just don’t do it anymore. Never mind playing Angry Birds on the iPhone, it’s the Cut the Rope game that’s annoying me at the moment!
Who would you include in your dream celebrity relay team, alongside yourself?
I’d love to have Fearne Cotton, because she’s already really sporty thanks to those charity challenges, so if she ever fancies doing a charity swim, I’d definitely mentor her… Alongside Angelina Jolie. If I can have a man as well, I’d have someone hot in a pair of Speedos, probably Brad Pitt.
A self-confessed Krispy Kreme fan, what’s the most you could tackle in one sitting?
[Laughs] I could probably do five, obviously in the off-season though! I’ve got a pretty sweet tooth, but I wouldn’t go for five doughnuts often. I’d say a bar of chocolate once or twice a week is OK… Everything in moderation!
Fran Halsall is an ambassador for Multipower sports food. For sports nutrition tailored to your needs, visit www.multipoweruk.com.