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Pool champ Billy makes a splash.

T HE next Nick Gillingham could be in our sights - because swimmer Billy Bott is having the season of his life.

After 10 years of early mornings, thousands of miles of swimming in Birmingham pools and a fortune in training costs, the 18-year-old part-time car cleaner is on the verge of a place in the national team.

And his chances will be given a boost later this year when he becomes one of just 12 from a 36-strong squad to join an elite group of swimmers with the City of Birmingham.

Coach Chris Martin is to launch the selected high-performance group for those he hopes will be the swimming heroes of the future. And Billy, a breaststroker, is set to be one of them.

Mr Martin said: "I want to make them the best in the world. William has every opportunity of getting there. He is having the training season of his life."

Billy has a lot to live up to after the likes of Adam Ruckwood, still in the national squad, and Olympic medallist Nick Gillingham worked their way up through the ranks at Walsall Swimming Club and then Birmingham.

Billy has been a member of his local Redditch swimming club since he was eight. He joined the City of Birmingham squad for high-calibre swimmers in the area more than three years ago.

Training forces him out of bed at his Redditch home at around 4.10am. He trains from 5.30am to 7.30am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, from 4.15pm to 7.30pm every weekday and from 6.30am to10am on Saturdays.

"Saturday night is usually the night for socialising but I am usually too tired to go far or do much. But I don't mind at all. I want to concentrate on my swimming," he said.

"All I have ever wanted to do is compete for my country and that is what I am determined to do."

Fulime sportsmen and women can find it extremely tight financially. Billy has to fork out around pounds 50 a week in petrol costs alone. Then there are swimming trunks, towels, kit bags, club fees and hotel costs for competitions around the country. Gran ts are few and far between but Billy is one of the lucky few to have pounds 2,000 towards his costs thanks to a hand-out from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts.

Billy said: "The money is really welcome because the costs do mount up, particularly when training takes up all of your time and you can't work.

"I do work a few hours a week cleaning cars for a rental firm. That doesn't give much money but it helps to make ends meet."

Mum Stephanie is extremely proud of her son's hard work and determination to succeed.

She said: "It is difficult for a lad of his age to keep up such a commitment. All of his friends have left school, got jobs, are earning money and go out drinking and clubbing at weekends. If Billy goes out on a Saturday night he is usually so exhausted he doesn't stay out long."

What do you think of the dedication of budding champion Billy Bott? How would you feel about taking on such a demanding schedule? Write to Talkabout, Sunday Mercury, 28 Colmore Circus, Birmingham B4 6AZ.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Oct 25, 1998
Words:554
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