The Olympic dream of George Barber is fuelled by MICHAEL PHELPS banishing his London 2012 demons to Rio.
Barber, who hails from Sheffield, has vivid memories of how South African Chad le Clos robbed 28-time Olympic champion Phelps of the 200m butterfly title nine years ago.
But to regain his title, the most decorated Olympian of all time hit back in style in the Brazilian waters.
Barber, who specializes in 200 m butterfly and 400 m freestyle, has his own Olympic dreams, and he says memories of the Games 200 days before Tokyo will help him follow in the glittering footsteps of Phelps.
“I remember the 200m butterfly in London 2012,” said the 19-year-old, who is financially sponsored as part of Entain’s Pitching In program by a three-year agreement between Entain, which owns Ladbrokes and Coral, and SportsAid.
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Michael lost to Chad le Clos and just got touched [on the wall]literally. But then I recall watching the 2016 Rio Olympics and seeing Michael come back and win again or something crazy like that in his fourth Olympics.
It was just so inspiring and such a good memory for me to win the title again in front of Chad.
He is the greatest swimmer of all time by far. His record speaks for itself and was mesmerizing with some of his performances.
That [to follow in his footsteps]will be amazing. I am ambitious, so I hope I can hit that amount one day.
“But even if I only make or am considered for one team, I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved. For a young kid from a really small town in the middle of nowhere, I think it’s pretty cool that I’ve gotten this far.”
Launched in 2019 and sponsored by Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Entain’s collaboration with SportsAid helps young athletes like Barber achieve their potential as he trains with the City of Sheffield Swim Squad.
The investment supports grassroots sport and also provides crucial support for Olympians and Paralympians’ training, travel, equipment and access to mentoring.
During the November lockout, Barber returned home to his family in Humberston and practiced diligently at his home gym.
But now he is back working with his new mentor, Mike Taylor, at Sheffield’s state-of-the-art Ponds Forge International Sports Centre.
Barber specializes in the 200 m butterfly and 400 m freestyle and wants Olympic glory.
The student from Sheffield Hallam acknowledges that his modest beginnings in Lincolnshire will make it much more special to hit the top and hopes that he will use the Commonwealth Games as a springboard to propel himself to Paris in 2024.
Barber, who follows the same SportsAid route as Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sir Mo Farah and Dina Asher-Smith, said, “I don’t think there are more than 5,000 people in Humberston. To come from there compared to how far I’ve come now is incredible,”
He said, “I just hope to keep going and would probably say 2024 [is the target],”
“I want to work towards the 2022 Commonwealth Games and give myself the best possible chance of qualifying for that. From there, I’ll sit down with the coaching team and see where we can go from there.”
Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, is proud to help the next generation of British sports heroes by providing promising young athletes in collaboration with SportsAid with financial support and professional growth opportunities. Entain is sponsoring a diverse community of 50 British athletes per year from a number of spots and para-sports as part of this three-year collaboration. To learn more, visit entaingroup.com.