Thorpe House swimmer interviews swimming legend, Adrian Moorhouse MBE

30 May 2019

At the end of January, we celebrated the launch of the school’s newly covered and renovated 18 metre swimming pool with Seriously FUN Swimming Schools . Olympic gold medal winner Adrian Moorhouse MBE performed the ribbon cutting ceremony and Ellis (Year 11) part of our elite swimming team and a member of the senior performance squad at Wycombe District Swimming Club interviewed the gold medal winner all about his swimming career and his journey to the Seoul Olympics in 1988:

What used to motivate you to get up and train?
I was motivated by two things, I liked competing but I also liked mastery; I wanted to learn and do everything better. Between the ages of 12-13 I was also bullied, so I swam as a way of keeping my head down and not being around other people.

What did you do to prepare yourself for a race?
Preparation is everything; an hour before a race I found myself a quiet place. I’d read a book, listen to music and as it got closer to the race I visualised swimming it. The final piece of prep was thinking about what I could control next, so as I walked into the Olympic ‘ready room’ for the final, all I was thinking about was getting a good dive because that was all I could do next.

How did you feel when you won your gold medal in 1988?
I was 24 and winning a gold medal is a good feeling as you might imagine! It was my second Olympics; I was hoping to win in my first when I was 20 and I was devastated when I didn’t. Sticking with it and coming back to win was really special. It was also closing the loop on a childhood dream.

How do you deal with defeat?
I was never a bad loser. I used to reflect on what I could do differently or better. I was never angry or bitter and even when I won, I was thinking about which bit of the race I could have done differently. I did get upset, I don’t like losing, particularly after my first Olympics, but eventually I got some perspective and every race I went into after that I thought, it can’t be as bad as that. I’ll survive.

Who were your sporting role models growing up?
Role models are very important. Scottish swimmer, David Wilkie who won a gold medal in 1976 was mine. I was a club swimmer when I watched him win it and I thought, that looks pretty good, I’d like to do that! There was a David Wilkie Swimming Camp not far from where I lived and I pestered my dad to take me along. I went for the day and David was there and I met him. That’s the thing about seeing something on TV and dreaming about it, then actually meeting a human being; it makes it more real and you believe that it’s possible.

Who was your biggest influence growing up?
My swimming coach from the age of 14 to 28, Terry Denison. He was the man who entered me for my first County championship where I got a silver and he was my coach when I won the Olympics. My father was also a big influence; he had the philosophy that the harder you work, the more you get. He was all about effort, putting the hours in, practising and working hard.

What advice would you get to a young swimmer who wants to get into competitive swimming?
You’ve got to put a lot of time into competitive swimming, so I would say you have to enjoy it. You give things up, you don’t sacrifice things, you choose to be a swimmer and it’s a lot of fun! I did it with lots of my friends and I have friends now that I met through the sport. You’ve also got to listen to the coaches; you need to respect them and really understand why they are telling you what they are. On one occasion early on, I got quite upset with what my coach was saying, but I thought, he must be telling me this for a reason so I asked him why. That was the start of me working with him.

Aside from winning gold in 1988, what was your biggest sporting achievement?
The year before I won the Olympics, I took part in a competition in Germany and I was the first person to break a minute in the 100m breaststroke. There were three of us holding the world short course record and we were exchanging it for about a year. We were in the race together so we knew one of us would break it and it was me.

How often do you swim now?
That’s quite an embarrassing question! I swim on holiday. I sometimes join the Masters’ group in Maidenhead and occasionally I go to the lake in the summer to swim in open water; I’ve got a wetsuit in my boot and I used it once this summer!

Do you children like to swim?
They all have beautiful technique, but my 13 year old has already stopped swimming to be a rower, my 11 year old swims at school but has stopped club swimming and my 10 year old stopped when she was six and plays the drums now. My last hope is my youngest who is still swimming, but for how long I don’t know!

What is your favourite stroke?
I love breaststroke because it’s not a naturally flowing stroke. It’s all about getting the timing and technique right and I enjoy the challenge that it offers.