MATTHEW Abood's thoughts have already turned to the 2012 London Olympics after his successful World Swimming Championships campaign in Shanghai, where he was part of Australia's victorious 4x100m freestyle team.
The Kingscliff product, who is on the Tweed for a break until the end of the week, has taken plenty of positives from his campaign, especially because he feared he may not even have been able to compete.
The 25-year-old suffered a bulging disk in his back, which left him bedridden back in April, but he stuck to his rehabilitation program and went on the pre-competition training camp to Singapore, and it was only there he was cleared to swim.
Although disappointed not to make the final of the 50m freestyle, a discipline in which he is Australian champion, he knows there is improvement there.
“We had all been saying for a long time we were really excited for the team's prospects next year (at the Olympics) and what we have been building towards over the past 18 months to two years,” he said.
“For us all to step up the way we did and bring forward our potential 12 months ahead of where we were targeting, that was a great feeling. It makes you realise what is possible next year, as well as the satisfaction of what we have achieved in Shanghai.
“The relay is so different to the normal swimming race, because all of a sudden you are in a team environment. It unfolds before, and after you finish your leg. It is nerve wracking as the race starts, and you hope you get the changeover right.
Being the third swimmer in the relay team, Abood got to see James Magnussen's epic opening swim, and then see the end of the race as well.
“I got pretty pumped up because of how well we were going, and got to watch the end as well,” he said.
“I didn't watch the first 50m of (Magnussen's swim), I just wanted to keep pretty composed and concentrate on what I wanted. I looked up with 40m to go and saw the lead, and then when I saw the touch time everything came together and the situation got all the more real. It kind of focused me a fair bit after watching that.”
The Australians led all the way, but it was an extremely tight finish, with Eamon Sullivan touching first, in 3:11.00, with the French (3:11.14), and Americans (3:11.96) less than a second behind. “Everyone pulled together really well, our changeovers were of a high standard and everyone did the job they needed to do.”
Abood's parents Jill and Tony were in the stands at Shanghai, and he looked up at them after Sullivan swam the team to victory.
“I was very happy they got to witness that. I could see them in the stands after we had won, and I gave them a wave,” he said.
“I think dad hurt his arm with the fist pumps he was doing in the air.”
Abood's elation at winning gold in the 4x100m relay was tempered somewhat by a performance in the 50m freestyle he “wasn't too happy” with.
He blamed a poor start in the semi-final for his failure to reach the final.
“Unfortunately I didn't get off to the best start possible, and it was game over after that,” he said.
“I was only .15 second off a medal with the time I swum, so as disappointed as I was that I didn't swim to my potential in the race, it is kind of encouraging too knowing where I am at and that I am in medal contention for next year.
“The whole point of Shanghai was to ensure I was in position to win an Olympic medal next year.”
Abood believes he has plenty of improvement left in his swimming ahead of the Olympics.
“I knew during the race things weren't unfolding the way I would have liked. With the 50m freestyle, there is only half a second difference between first and fifth. Something you get on the better side of things and other times you don't, and unfortunately that is what happened to me at Shanghai.
“If you don't get the best start, it is very, very hard to pull your way back in just 15 seconds.”
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