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Oldbury swimmer Alice Dearing takes the 2020 plunge

Super swimmer Alice Dearing is building on her Potential. The 17-year-old from Oldbury, a pupil at The Royal Wolverhampton School, has won a place on British Swimming's World Class Podium Potential Programme.

Oldbury swimmer Alice Dearing takes the 2020 plunge

And she aims to grab a spot in the open water event at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

You won't find many teenagers willing to get up at 4.30am every day for the best part of six years.

Dearing is one of a rare breed and is now starting to get her rewards.

Her selection for the World Class Podium Potential Programme is a significant achievement and one which will see her funded with the long-term goal of winning a medal in open water swimming at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

It is also proof to Dearing that an arduous training regime, which sees her leave home before dawn and not return until 7.30pm, has not been in vain.

"About two or three years ago I was thinking about quitting," she admits. "I missed out on so many parties, so many things and I wondered whether it was worth it. Now I know it is.

"I kept going because I knew I had potential. I get enjoyment from it and have the feeling of winning. The people I have met, I know so many and have some good friends.

"But it is a lifestyle. It's a big choice."

Dearing, who began swimming at the age of eight when she was taken to Oldbury Swimming Baths by her mother, trains nine times a week in the pool and four on land

Alice Dearing in the British championships at Glasgow

It is a schedule she has become accustomed to since first going to the Royal School at the age of 11 – but one which enabled her to score significant results to catch the attention of British Swimming's coaches when she first tried open water swimming last year.

Having narrowly missed out on a medal at the World Junior Championships, Dearing claimed gold at the European Juniors as it became clear her future lay in the open water – known as the 'Marathon of Swimming'.

Held over a distance of 10km, the event was introduced to the Olympics at Beijing 2008.

"Open water does tend to be something people get into later," says Dearing. "I got into it in 2013 when I got picked to go to a trial in Portugal for the European juniors and qualified.

"There are a number of ways you make the transition, but for me someone just asked if I wanted to try it and I decided to give it a go.

"Open water is lakes, rivers and seas. There are natural elements to deal with which you don't have in pools. The water temperature is different, there can be waves – if there is a current in the river you have to take that into consideration.

Alice Dearing flying the flag for Great Britain

"Every race is different. You learn something from one race which then won't apply to the next. That is part of the appeal, I guess."

While Tokyo remains the long-term goal, there is still a chance that Dearing could make a splash at Rio 2016. Next month she heads to Australia and Perth for the start of the World Championship trials and, should she qualify, a top 10 finish at the Worlds next year would send her to Brazil.

With the hard work set to begin again, Dearing keeps her sights on the end goal whenever she thinks about the sacrifices.

"I remember what I want to do and that might be completely different to others," she says.

"My friends are supportive. I do have to try and make friends with people who are supportive in these things because if there is someone who is constantly asking me to go out, it is not going to be good for me."

Former Olympian Marc Spackman, head coach at the Royal School, is in no doubt about Dearing's potential. "It comes down to personalities," he says. "Alice is very resilient and is ready to go out there and fight with people. In open water swimming it can be a bit of a crush at the beginning of a race.

"When the race starts everyone dives in, converges and you have to fight your way to the front.

"It all depends on the athlete. We train them hard in the pool and all of them can swim open water or pool swimming. It just depends on what you want to do.

"It's the start of Alice's swimming career on the British team. So far, she is doing fantastically."

Alice Dearing
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