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Massive sacrifices to get to the top.

BEING paid to do sport full time is probably the dream of most of a youthful age.

However, it's not all fame and fortune. Maybe Cristiano Ronaldo and Steven Gerrard are paid three times more a week than we earn in a year and train but two hours mid-morning, but others graft unstintingly over unsocial hours for much less money to achieve what they desire.

Take Chris Cook and the British swimmers heading for Beijing. He described his typical day thus: "I get up at 4.30am and arrive at the pool in Newcastle from my Wallsend home by about 10 past five.

"All the swimmers and coach Ian Oliver then take the covers off the pool, place the lane ropes in position and the like for a 5.30am start.

"I do a two-hour session of 6,000 to 7,000 metres. That is three to four miles.

"Breakfast is eaten in the car - I have brought it with me from home - then I arrive at Gateshead in time to do weight training from 8am. That can be a two-hour session followed by an hour in the physios.

"Finally, I get a break but I am back at the pool by 4.30pm for another two-hour session with the same yardage.

"After all that I am in bed by 8.10 - 9.30pm at the very latest - to begin it all over again at 4.30am."

For a young man in his prime it means little or no social life. Up at 4.30am? I have known footballers who were only getting in at that time!

Chris has been with finacee Erica for nine years and they have lived together for the last five.

She was a junior international swimmer, which means she can understand the crazy life and unremitting sacrifices.

"For me her name is also on every medal I have because she has sacrificed so much for my career," said Chris.

Cook has been on lottery funding since 2001, which effectively means a full-time wage - but there are strict standards to be met.

He said: "The situation is reviewed every six months and if I drop out of the top 16 in the world my cash will automatically be withdrawn."

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MENTOR: Ian Oliver
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 15, 2008
Words:378
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