Jo Jackson will be hoping this week’s British Gas ASA National Championships in Sheffield will mark a reversal of fortunes for the Olympic bronze medallist after severe asthma and ill health blighted her career for more than 18 months.
The 24-year-old had become a major contender on the world stage after her Olympic 400metres freestyle bronze was followed up by a stunning 2009.
Jackson broke the 400m world record and, although it was reclaimed by Federica Pellegrini, the Briton went on to take two individual silver medals and one relay bronze at the World Championships in Rome.
Notably, one of her silver medals in Italy came in one of her first outings in the 800m freestyle with team-mate and Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington in fourth.
On her return the Loughborough swimmer then broke the 400m short-course world record as she confirmed herself as one of the world’s top swimmers with a friendly rivalry with Adlington serving to propel both women.
However, in the autumn of 2009 illness struck and the next 18 months was a cycle of ill health and asthma so serious her ribs would pop out in training.
Her training and competition was affected and, while she won relay medals at last year’s European Championships and Commonwealth Games, the Richmond-born swimmer found herself overtaken in the individual events by Jazmin Carlin.
However, Jackson believes she may have finally turned the corner after the World Championship trials in Manchester, after which she also changed coach from Kevin Renshaw to Ben Titley.
She said: “I feel all right. I feel as though I am getting back up there. My asthma is fine although I do keep thinking ‘Oh no, when will I get ill again?’”
Jackson admits the last 18 months have been desperately hard but her demeanour is noticeably happier.
She said: “A true athlete keeps going. I hated it. I love swimming; it’s my passion. I want to be at my best again.”
Jackson has yet to qualify for next month’s World Championships in Shanghai and is hoping to secure her place at the second wave of trials at Ponds Forge starting today.
She will go in the 100m and 200m freestyle with an individual spot up for grabs in the latter before heading over to Rome for the Seven Hills meet where she will race the 800m for the first time since claiming world silver in the same pool - a neat symmetry.
Should she book her spot on the GB team, Jackson knows watching Carlin and Adlington race over eight lengths will be a test but is determined to be there in London.