Interview: British swimmer Fran Halsall

British swimmer Fran Halsall chats to Sports Mole about her Glasgow 2014 success, her targets at the European Championships and plans away from the pool.

In 2012, the disappointment of the London Olympic Games caused British swimmer Fran Halsall to make changes in her coaching regime, as well as seek help from the colleague of renowned sports psychologist Dr Steve Peters, Sarah Broadhead.

Since then, the 24-year-old has returned to winning ways in the pool and added to her Commonwealth Games medal tally by clinching two golds and two silvers in Glasgow last month.

The freestyle and butterfly swimmer was part of an England team who snatched 28 medals, but she is back within the fold for Great Britain at the European Championships in Berlin.

Prior to Halsall's campaign in Germany, Sports Mole caught up with the Southport-born swimmer to discuss her Commonwealth Games success, how she's come back from previous struggles, and her plans away from the pool.

England's Francesca Halsall gives the thumbs-up after setting a new Games record in the semi-final of the women's 50m freestyle on July 25, 2014© Getty Images

You've jumped straight into training for the Europeans after the Commonwealth Games. Has it been easy to refocus?

"It's been a weird one because I've never had two major competitions this close together before and obviously the main meet was the Commonwealths - that went well so this is kind of a bonus event really. I'm just enjoying feeling good in the water and [hope] I can hold the form of what happened at Commonwealths and swim some good races."

In terms of preparation, has everything been going to plan?

"Yeah, it's good. It's nice to be back in and obviously reassess what happened at Commonwealths and be able to change things and make things a bit better and put them into practice next week."

I remember you saying prior to the Commonwealth Games that you wanted yourself and your fellow swimmers to inspire a new generation. Do you think your performances in Glasgow may have done that?

"I hope so! I think that we did a really good job at Commonwealths and we were quite relaxed with it and enjoyed it and everyone stepped up and swam good, so, if that inspires people to get in and get swimming that's fantastic."

The British swimming contingent far exceeded UK Sport's 22 to 26 medals target in Glasgow, but it's not a World Championships or an Olympic Games, so is it important not to get ahead of yourselves in that respect?

"I suppose it is in a way, but for me and my events, in the 50m freestyle race, what came fifth came third at World Championships last year, so the standard at my event in the Commonwealths was really, really high. Some of the fastest girls in and around the Commonwealths do my event. So, for me, it was like a global final in some ways when you've got Cate and Bronte Campbell stood next to you, Ariana [Vanderpool-Wallace] from the Bahamas as well, it makes it a very tight final. The times that we produced were ridiculous even in world terms, so for me, I felt like it was a great race and a very high standard race. To be able to get my hand on the wall first in that kind of situation bodes well for future World Championships and Olympics."

Francesca Halsall celebrates winning gold for England in the women's 50m freestyle on July 26, 2014© Getty Images

How important was it for you personally to do well in Glasgow given that the Rio Olympics is just two years away?

"I wanted to go there, I wanted to step up and I had a time in my head that I wanted to hit - I managed to achieve that. The situations of being in lane four, you're the fastest through to the final, so there's quite a little bit of added pressure on and there's people all around you. My event is an event where the distance between people is very close, so just having the right mindset beforehand and emotions of that really helps and moves you forward in terms of looking forward to the World Championships and Olympics in the next couple of years. It helps with all that kind of stuff - it's adding some strings to my bow."

You always come across really upbeat and confident, but as you've experienced yourself, every career has its ups and downs. Have you had moments when you've really had to lift yourself?

"Yeah, definitely. I didn't get the results I quite wanted at the Olympics and I found that quite difficult to cope with and trying to move on from that was quite stressful, but it's one of those things. I had to bring myself back round - I got a new coach and a new training programme. I spoke to a sports psychologist and managed to bring myself back together. I'm always quite positive on things, though, which I think is quite a good way to be in sport."

Within the British team you're all really supportive of each other, but at the end of the day you're competitive athletes. Are there ever any cases of jealousy within the camp?

"I don't think so, you know! It's quite strange because everyone does get on so well. We're so supportive of each other. I train at Loughborough and we have a very close training group and I love seeing all those guys do well. One of my best friends, Georgia [Davies], won the 50m backstroke and came second in the 100m as well and she's Welsh. I was still so happy for her because she'd done so well and it's great. When everyone's doing well together there's a great sense of achievement about our team and we're really buying into the team values."

Becki Turner, Amy Smith, Francesca Halsall and Siobhan O'Connor of England pose with their silver medals during the medal ceremony for the Women's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Final at Tollcross International Swimming Centre during day one of the Glasgow 2014© Getty Images

At the Commonwealth Games the swimmers across all nations seemed to be quite friendly. Is that quite a general feeling, do you tend to get on with your rivals as well?

"Yeah, the swimming community is so nice. I love being a swimmer and being involved in swimming because everyone's lovely that you meet. No matter where you go or who you bump into, everybody's really friendly, got time for you and are really nice to chat to. All the girls that I race against, even the ones from the Europeans that I'm racing [against] next week, all sent me congratulation messages and saying well done about my swims at the Commonwealths. It's really nice actually, it is a nice environment to be in."

You guys have such demanding training regimes. Can that take a toll on your life away from the sport?

"Yeah, it does a bit. It's funny that you should say that because I've been thinking about whether to get a dog or not! I'm just trying to decide if I can fit one in and around training and going away and being here, there and everywhere. I'm seeing if it would be feasible to do. I need one that will fit in with my lifestyle! We train two, three times a day and we go away on camps and away to race, so it is quite a hectic schedule, but I still seem to manage some time to fit in some friends and family stuff."

What do you enjoy doing away from the pool? Do you have any holidays coming up?

"Yes, I'm going to Vegas after the Europeans! I've got a couple of holidays booked. I like going away and doing stuff. Obviously you meet so many people through swimming, you've got friends in different countries that you can go and hang out with and things like that."

Francesca Halsall during the 100m freestyle heats on July 27, 2014© Getty Images

If you hadn't gone into competitive swimming, what do you think you'd be doing right now?

"Do you know what, I think I would have had to have done a different sport. I'm so competitive and overly competitive so I think a sport was the only outlet for that!"

Finally, in terms of your expectations at the Europeans, what would you consider a successful meet for you?

"I want to get in and see if I can replicate my swims at Commonwealths and make them a bit better because the things that I did in my races that weren't quite right, I know I should have been a bit better at. The coach is on me on that and making sure I make myself better at the Europeans."

Francesca Halsall during the 100m freestyle heats on July 27, 2014
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