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Interview: GB swimmer Siobhan-Marie O'Connor's "dream" for Rio 2016

Sports Mole speaks to GB swimmer Siobhan-Marie O'Connor about her "dream" for Rio 2016 after qualifying for the Olympics.

It is less than 100 days until athletes from all over the globe descend on Rio de Janeiro to compete in the Olympic Games.

British swimmer Siobhan-Marie O'Connor will be one of the medal hopefuls in Brazil after she earned her plane ticket with a hat-trick of golds at the British Championships earlier this month.

In the past two years, O'Connor has scooped six Commonwealth medals, a World Championship bronze in the 200m individual medley and a record-breaking gold in the 4x100m mixed relay, and now her attention turns to Rio.

Great Britain's Siobhan Marie O'Connor smiles after she won the semi-final 1 of the women's 200m individual medley swimming event at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan on August 2, 2015© Getty Images

"It felt really, really good [to qualify]," O'Connor exclusively told Sports Mole. "I was trying not to think too much about it or get too excited about the Olympics before I qualified because I was just trying to think about the process and what I had to do to qualify.

"So when I touched the wall and saw that I'd swam under the qualifying time, it was a rush of happiness and relief to achieve what I wanted. I'm absolutely over the moon to be on the team and really excited about going to another Olympic Games."

The swimming events get underway on August 6 and as part of her preparations O'Connor will perform in front of a home crowd in London at her "favourite pool", the London Aquatics Centre, for the European Championships in May.

The British athlete believes that the meet will act as the "test before the test" and is keeping her fingers crossed that the venue will create the "best atmosphere" for her and her GB teammates.

O'Connor has shown her versatility in the pool by competing in various events. For example, at the British Championships earlier this month she swam in the 100m freestyle, the 100m breaststroke, the 100m butterfly and her favoured 200m individual medley.

For the Olympics, though, the Commonwealth champion understands that she will need to prioritise in order to give herself the best chance of getting on the podium.

"The Olympic Games is the pinnacle in sporting competition," said O'Connor. "In the past I've swam in quite a few events at the Commonwealth Games etc, but this time it's completely different, so I'm going to sit down with my coach and work out what's the best programme for me that will give me the best chance of swimming well and the team the best chance of performing as well."

Bronze medalist Siobhan-Marie O'Connor of Great Britain during the medal ceremony for the Women's 200m Individual Medley on day ten of the 16th FINA World Championships at the Kazan Arena on August 3, 2015© Getty Images

At the age of just 16, O'Connor experienced her first Olympics in London 2012. The Bath swimmer has admitted that she got swept up in the spectacle, but having progressed into one of Britain's best female hopes for a medal, she is planning a different approach for Rio.

"London was the best two weeks of my life, it was such an incredible experience," O'Connor told us. "I was just so happy to be on the team. It was tough for me to get there but when I made the team it was incredible, such a whirlwind and an amazing feeling. I was quite young back then so I think I just wanted to soak up the experience.

"Obviously I went there trying to swim my best and I did swim the best that I could, but I didn't really get the results that I was hungry for. I wanted to be older and amongst it. I'm four years older now and swimming quicker times, so this time I'm hoping that I get some good results.

"There is always going to be expectation and I think a lot of that expectation comes from myself. I work really hard for this, I train really hard, and I have goals in my mind that I want to achieve, so that's where the motivation and strive comes from. I want to make everyone proud as well. I'm so competitive so I'm going to go and do my best and use that as motivation."

O'Connor is now among some of the world's best, but she is quick to play down comparisons between herself and Rebecca Adlington, who won four Olympic medals in her career, making her Great Britain's most decorated female Olympian alongside Katherine Grainger.

"Becky is an incredible swimmer," said O'Connor. "What she did in London and what she did in Beijing - she's the best British swimmer we've ever had. She's such an inspiration. It is great to be one of the older ones on the team and someone who younger swimmers can look up to because I looked up to some of the older swimmers when I was younger. I'm just trying to do the best that I can and if I can inspire some young swimmers to jump in the water and get into swimming, that's an honour."

Siobhan-Marie O'Connor of Great Britain competes in the Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay Final on day twelve of the 16th FINA World Championships at the Kazan Arena on August 5, 2015© Getty Images

In four months' time the British swimmer will face the biggest test of her professional life yet, and any athlete could fall into the trap of focusing too much on their potential opponents, but O'Connor is refusing to do so.

"You can't control what anyone else is going to do," she said. "If you get bogged down with what everyone else is going to do you get distracted from what you have to do. The best way of me swimming my best is to focus on myself and make sure that I'm doing everything that I can right. I just need to make sure that I put in the work and give myself the best opportunity of swimming well against those people."

So, once the dust settles and the winners and losers return home from Rio, what will O'Connor consider to be a successful Games for her?

"If I do everything right in the next few months in the lead-up and make sure that I put everything that I can into my training and preparation, when I stand up on the block I'll have no regrets and whatever happens, happens," she said. "I want to be in that position. I don't want any regrets. I don't want to be there thinking 'I could have done this, I could have done that'.

"If I get in the position that I want to be, I know then I can give it my best shot. There are things that I want to do and want to achieve, but it's going to take a lot of hard work to get there. The dream would be to come away with a medal but it's going to be tough. The Olympic Games is the pinnacle of competition so I want to be in the best shape possible. Touch wood I can stay injury and illness free and give myself the best chance of doing what I want to do."

Siobhan is supported by the Sky Academy Sports Scholarship scheme, helping young athletes fulfil their potential on the international stage and achieve their goals for Rio 2016: skysports.com/scholarship.

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England's Siobhan O'Connor during the 200m individual medley heat on July 27, 2014
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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
ChinaChina32211669
United StatesUnited States25292276
JapanJapan2071239
AustraliaAustralia1541736
Great BritainGreat Britain14181547
Today's Olympic highlights header

Wednesday's key events


SKATEBOARDING
· Team GB starlet Sky Brown - aged just 13 - takes part in the women's park event and has a realistic chance of picking up a medal too. Bombette Martin is Britain's other representative, while hosts Japan are among the favourites for gold (1am)

HOCKEY
· Great Britain's women have more history in their sights heading into their semi-final against Netherlands - the team they beat in the 2016 gold medal match (2.30am)

ATHLETICS
· The men's 400m hurdles final on Tuesday will go down as one of the greatest Olympic races of all time, and the women will attempt to emulate that, with new world record holder Sydney McLaughlin of USA and Netherlands' Femke Bol the favourites for gold (3.30am)
· Nick Miller is Britain's representative in the men's hammer throw final (12.15pm)
· The men's 800m final could be a wide-open affair (1.05pm)
· A thrilling men's 200m final is in store as the likes of Andre de Grasse, Noah Lyles and 17-year-old sensation Erriyon Knighton bid to succeed Usain Bolt as Olympic champion (1.55pm)

SAILING
· After a medal-laden day on the water on Tuesday, Great Britain will be looking for more success, starting with Luke Patience and Chris Grube in the men's 470-class medal race (6.33am)
· Team GB also have medal hopes in the women's event, with defending champion Hannah Mills looking to retain her crown alongside new teammate Eilidh McIntyre (7.33am)

BOXING
· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Great Britain's Frazer Clarke faces Uzbekistan's Bakhodir Jalolov in the men's super heavyweight with a place in the gold medal bout up for grabs (7.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also guaranteed a medal, but will look to ensure that is either gold or silver as he takes on Cuba's Arlen Lopez in the light heavyweight final (7.35am)

CYCLING
· World records have been tumbling in the velodrome, and another could go in the men's team pursuit final as Italy - new world record holders themselves - face Denmark (10.06am)

EQUESTRIAN
· Three Brits have made into into the final of the men's jumping individual final, including fastest qualifier Ben Maher, who will bid to inherit compatriot Nick Skelton's Olympic crown (11am)

> Today's schedule in full
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