Jason on the springboard to Olympics glory

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NAIROBI, Kenya, September 21- The London 2012 Games are 11 months away but Kenya’s top swimmer Jason Dunford has already made the dive in search of the country’s first ever Olympics medal from the pool.

Inspired by his groundbreaking achievement last year in Delhi where the elder of the Dunford swimming brothers won Kenya’s first gold at the Commonwealth Games, Jason is revving to cut himself another slice of history in London.

“I broke the Olympics record in Beijing and finished fifth in the 100m butterfly final and my performance inspired the Kenyan team to record their best haul ever at the Games.

“I hope to repeat what I did in Delhi where I won the country’s first gold in London and I have taken a break in my studies to fully focus on training for the Olympics,” Dunford said Wednesday.

Speaking while receiving sponsorship from swimming pool equipment firm Davis and Shirtliff in Nairobi, Dunford revealed he would travel to his USA base Wednesday night to begin preparing for the conquest at the biggest sporting carnival on earth.

Fresh from winning nine medals, six individual and three relay medals at the just concluded All Africa Games in Maputo, Jason who will be joined by his brother David in the American block training camp is keen to translate his continental dominance on the grand stage.

“Every time I hear the national anthem being played when I’m on the top step of the podium, I feel a tinge in my spine and it’s hard to describe the feeling. My mission is to win for Kenya and put the country’s name on top of the world.”

Jason, who has been shuttling between USA, Italy and at home for the past year in readiness for the London Olympics paused his Masters in Environmental Science studies at Stanford University to devote all his efforts to his Olympics dream.

“After the Olympics, I will think about the next step, complete my studies and perhaps see where my swimming career will head but for now, the focus is fully on the Olympics and nothing would make me happier than winning gold for Kenya.”

Dunford, who fished two gold, three silver and four bronze medals from the pool at Maputo will race in Dubai in three weeks in an FINA Arena World Cup meet where he will compete against top swimmers.

“To beat these guys, I have to compete with some of the best in the world. I was training with them in Europe last year and in the New Year, I will return to Europe for intensive and high altitude training to get ready for London.”

The ace swimmer applauded corporate firms that were rewarding talent with endorsements and financial backing saying it was huge motivation for the effort they put to excel.

“It is encouraging to see companies seeing the marketing benefits of sports stars and musicians alike. We see people like (David) Rudisha with Kiwi and Collins Injera with Nokia and it is great to see companies willing to work with recognisable faces.”

Jason will concentrate on the 100m butterfly event in London seeking to improve on the 50.78 African record he set in Beijing.

“The 100m butterfly is the blue riband event in swimming and everyone seeks to win. In Maputo, my brother beat me to gold and it was a special moment for him since he is a good swimmer. Of course, we are rivals but train together and it would be lovely if we repeated the 1-2 we achieved at the All Africa Games in London.”

Davis and Shirtliff Group CEO, Alec Davis explained why they backed the swimmer.

“It’s good to support him since these athletes make a great sacrifice and in the financial sense since it takes a lot for him to meet his travel and other expenses. We have very high standards we aim for and Jason is an exemplar of excellence and he represents what we are.”

While declining to divulge the financial scope of the deal, Davis said the package would cover his travel and training expenses in addition to incentives for winning at the Olympics.

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