Calum Jarvis - I just couldn’t gather my thoughts really as going to an Olympics has been something I’ve been waiting to achieve for a very long time
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Welsh swimming has been waiting since 1912 for an Olympic gold medal in a mainstream event, but maybe, just maybe the long wait may be about to end.
Whisper it is hushed tones, but when the Welsh nation awakes on Wednesday morning this week it could be heralding not one, but two new gold medallists. It’s the old London bus joke – you wait all that time for one and then two come along together!
In this instance it is Matt Richards and Calum Jarvis who are in the driving seat, having helped to steer the Team GB 4 x 200 freestyle relay team into the Olympic final as the fastest qualifiers. The world champions in 2015 and 2017, they were second in this year’s European Championships behind the Russians.
But with the gold medallist from the individual 200 freestyle event, Tom Dean, James Guy, Welsh record holder Richards and the experienced Jarvis, they blasted their way into the final by winning a heat in which arch-rivals Australia and the USA took part.
It means Team GB will go into the final as firm favourites, especially with the individual silver medalist Duncan Scott in reserve. Can they hold their nerve and deliver the goods to allow Richards and Jarvis to bridge a gap that dates all the way back to the last Welsh swimmer to strike gold in the pool, Irene Steer, 109 years ago?
If they can then it will be a great way for the 18-year-old Richards to crown his first senior season, and for the veteran in the squad, 29-year-old Jarvis, to complete his fairytale story. Having just missed out on the last two Olympics he is hoping to make it third time lucky.
When you are married to a two time Olympic finalist, it would also be a nice piece of one upmanship to return home with a gold medal in the suitcase. I’m sure Jemma Jarvis, formerly Jemma Lowe, wouldn’t mind one little bit!
It’s been a long nine years for Jarvis n attempting to achieve his career goal of taking part in the Olympics and now it is all about making the most of his magic moment.
“When I touched the wall in the trials it was a mixture of relief and excitement. I just couldn’t gather my thoughts really as going to an Olympics has been something I’ve been waiting to achieve for a very long time,” said Jarvis, who has previously won gold at both the World and European Championships. “In 2012, I won the Olympic trials but I didn’t quite get the time needed to qualify and then in 2016 I was Ill just before the trials which didn’t help me. So to do it now, five years later, is a dream come true.
“I got married to Jemma in September last year. The idea was for us to get married after the Olympics in 2020, but obviously that didn’t happen. Now I’ve got a wife to go home to after the Games, which is great. “She gave me a lot of help, telling me both what I do and don’t need to do, as this is all new to me and she’s done it twice before. Having her there to guide me through all the different steps has been really nice. “Sometimes I’m like ‘I need to do this’ and Jemma’s saying ‘no you don’t’. She’s been 100% behind me on my journey, she’s been an incredible support, I couldn’t have asked for any more from here.” Jarvis first learned to swim at his local pool in Ystrad Rhondda before his family moved to Cornwall. That switch at a young age merely made him fall in love with the water even more. “I first got taught to swim by a para swimmer who was missing a leg. The lessons were in Ystrad Rhondda and my brother learned with me,” recalled Jarvis.
“Then at a young age, we moved down to Cornwall and continued our swimming there.We certainly made the most of it, we were always swimming, surfing and sailing, and we joined the local swimming club.”
At the beginning of his teenage years, Jarvis’ outlook on swimming changed and that’s when he realised that swimming could change his life forever. “It wasn’t until I was 13 that my coaches from Plymouth sat down with me and told me that I had lots of potential and that they saw the improvements I made in just one week. They then said if I keep this up that I could be a potential Olympian,” he added. “At that point, I was like wow the Olympics, yes let’s do this. But it’s not about improving in just one week, it takes years and years of training. “My parents played a massive role in helping me to get where I am today, it simply wouldn’t have happened without their support. They’ve made lots of sacrifices and took me everywhere.”
When lockdown hit last year Jarvis, who lives and trains in Bath, headed back to the Cornish coast to stay close to the water. Without access to a pool for three months he took up paddle boarding with his brother. “The strange thing as that that time out of the pool seemed to help rather than hinder me. Having a complete break was something new, but might be something that plays into future training plans for swimmers because so many of us felt refreshed afterwards,” he added.
“I did some home workouts with Jemma, who does some personal training, but mentally the break did me a power of good.”
Just how much of an impact it had we will find out in the small hours of Wednesday. Look out Mrs Jarvis, there could be an Olympic medal coming home!