WITH the London Olympic Games a matter of days away these are crucial times for competitors and their coaches.
Meet David Lyles, who hails from Batley, trained as a swimmer in Morley and is now plotting success in the pool for the Chinese team.
David grew up on Timothy Lane in Upper Batley and attended Batley Parish and Batley Grammar Schools.
He trained at Morley Sports Centre under the guidance of Great Britain Olympic coach Terry Dennison and although he was selected for the England Youth swimming team between 1982-84, it is as a coach that David has had most success.
He first took a swimmer to the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and has had swimmers at the subsequent Games in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
He trained GB Olympic 100 metre breaststroke finalist Darren Mew at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
It was while with the Great Britain team in Shanghai in 2000 that he met his now wife, Jenny, a retired Chinese swimmer and the pair recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary.
David and Jenny worked at Bath University developing swimmers and finding promising young talent to be nurtured into future champions.
As part of preparations for the Beijing Olympics, David took a group of his best swimmers to Shanghai so they could experience culture and weather in China.
While at the training camp, David was offered a job training future Chinese swimmers — five of who will be competing at London 2012.
David, 44, said: “I am very proud to be British at the London Olympics, even if I am representing another country.
“I will certainly be looking for my swimmers to do better than their Great Britain competitors but it really is about a coach doing his best for his athletes, irrespective of what country we represent.
“I always see the Olympics as a celebration of sport so just to be part of it is extremely gratifying.”
David is working to an extremely tight schedule as he prepares the Chinese swimmers for the Olympics and he has returned to Bath University as the base for the team.
David added: “The focus is on training and resting and a lot of travelling at this point is not good for any of us as we need to be mentally and physically ready.
“I don’t get back to the UK that much. I was here for a week in 2010 but it will be another 12 months before I am back here again.
“This job is very demanding and we spend a lot of time on the road. We have already had 11 weeks training and competing in Australia, four weeks training in Mallorca and now five weeks here in the UK.
“The experience of a coach at the Olympics is like no other competition. Commonwealths, Worlds, Europeans just don’t have the same intensity of the Games.
“There is so much pressure and expectation. Everyone is at their peak and you normally only get one or two events so chances are few.
“My swimmer in 2004 was ranked third going into Athens and came seventh so for me it was disappointing.
“I knew I had done all I could for the swimmer and had prepared him to the best of my ability.
“It obviously made me question my own ability and led to 12 months of reflection and self evaluation which eventually led me to the conclusion that I needed to move somewhere else and start afresh.
“I was a late developer and only learnt to swim when I was nine, which is quite late, especially these days.
“I started training at Morley Scatcherd Sports Centre which was part of the City of Leeds scheme under the guidance of GB Olympic coach Terry Denison as a 13 year old in 1981.
“Terry had many Olympic swimmers including Adrian Moorehouse, the Olympic 100 metre Breaststroke champion from Seoul 1988.
“I was selected for the England Youth Team between 1982-84 but never got any further honours.
“I went to Leeds Polytech in 1986 and started to coach the swimming team winning every University competition available and decided to go into coaching straight from Uni.
“I had my first Olympic swimmer in 1992 at Barcelona and had swimmers at the Olympics in 1996, 2000, 2004 and was head coach at the University of Bath from 1997 to 2005.”
Since taking over as coach for the Chinese team, David has already had success on the world stage.
In December 2010, he trained three swimmers to glory at the World Championships in Dubai.
Sun Xiao Lei won the men’s 50 metre backstroke, Zhou Yan Xin took gold at the women’s 200m backstroke and Ji Li Ping was the women’s 100m breaststroke champion.
Glory at the Olympic Games is what every athlete strives for and if the Chinese flag is raised at the Aquatic Centre it may well be a Batley lad who has played a major part in that success.