SWIM Bournemouth’s Jay Lelliott believes he could make a Commonwealth Games final on his international debut after being named in the England team today for Glasgow 2014.
Lelliott, 19, who survived two operations for a recurrent brain tumour when he was 12 and 13, said he was “over the moon” at his selection for the 1500m freestyle.
He told the Daily Echo: “I wasn’t really expecting to qualify. My aim in Glasgow was to make three finals and hopefully get myself into the British team next year.
“Getting into the England team is a bonus – but now I’m in it I want to enjoy it and see what I can.
“It’s my international debut and it’s a great way to start, but I’m not going in as a favourite.
“If I come ninth or 10th that will be great – and if I can make a final that would be even better.
“My coach and I have a time in mind that we think I can achieve. But we’re not telling anyone what that is and we are not underestimating the opposition.”
Lelliott was one of 36 swimmers named in the England team today – the first from Dorset since Manchester 2002, when Karen Legg won five medals for England and Swim Bournemouth’s current head coach Emma Hirst (now Richards) represented her native Jersey.
He booked his ticket with a spectacular silver medal in the 1500m freestyle at the British International Meet last month.
His time of 15min 12.70sec in the Glasgow trials represented a 23-second personal best and placed him second in Britain to Olympic finalist Dan Fogg and seventh in the Commonwealth rankings.
“It has been a huge journey for me. There have been so many ups and downs since I was diagnosed with a brain tumour aged 12,” he said.
“This last year has shown what I can do.”
Lelliott’s recent rise up the rankings has been meteoric after an early swimming career hindered by delays and illness.
He was on a waiting list for 18 months before joining his first club, Tornadoes of South Dorset, at the relatively late age of 11.
Within a year he had worked his way into the A squad, only to be diagnosed almost immediately with a recurrent brain tumour and a related condition called absence epilepsy, which caused him to suddenly blank out for 15 or 20 seconds.
The tumour required two operations at Southampton, which further delayed his progress by several months.
So Lelliott was 13 before his swimming career really got going.
At 15 his times started to drop dramatically and he qualified for his first national youth championships.
At 16 he broke the Dorset senior record in the 200m butterfly.
In 2012 he decided to join Swim Bournemouth, despite the daily 70-mile round trip to the club’s training base at Canford School.
In his first year with Bournemouth he broke another 22 county records, qualified for seven events at nationals and won a place on a British Swimming event camp.
He is now at Bath University, where an international standard training regime alongside many of the best swimmers in Britain is pushing him to even greater heights.
Former Bournemouth Dolphin Amelia Maughan, also now based at Bath, is also in the England team for the 4x200m freestyle relay.