World Para-swimming Championships: GB star Mikey Jones aims for clean sweep

Paralympic swimming champion Mikey Jones
Jones won gold in Rio shortly after the death of his father
World Para-Swimming Championships
Dates: 9-15 September
Venue: London Aquatics Centre

The London Aquatics Centre has not been a happy place in the past for British Para-swimmer Mikey Jones.

As a 17-year-old, Jones missed qualifying for London 2012 when the trials were held at the venue and then, while recovering from leg surgery, had to watch the Games unfold on television as the nation embraced Paralympic sport and new heroes were created.

But that failure proved to be a key moment for the Bournemouth swimmer.

"I was almost drifting along, to be brutally honest, and 2012 was a big turning point and made me focus a lot more on my training," he told BBC Sport.

"Hearing the crowds and seeing the phenomenal performances really started me thinking and made me want to be like [gold medallists] Jon Fox and Ellie Simmonds."

Jones, who won Paralympic gold in Rio three years ago and the European title last year, is now very much part of the Great Britain set-up. And the 25-year-old has the chance for Aquatics Centre redemption at September's World Para-swimming Championships, in front of what he hopes will be a packed arena.

It also gives him the chance to hold all three major titles at once - a distant dream back in November 2017 when he had shoulder surgery that threatened his career.

Jones, who has a form of cerebral palsy which affects his legs, only returned to the water at the end of March 2018 and needed a wildcard from British Swimming selectors in order to be part of the team for the Europeans.

But he was involved of one of the best races of the meeting in Dublin, going head-to-head with Israel's Mark Malyon in the S7 400m freestyle final, The Briton showed remarkable determination to overhaul his rival and win by just 0.15 seconds.

'No easy journey'

Ever the perfectionist, Jones admits that it was his will to win that helped him take the title.

"When I watch the race back, technically it wasn't the best race in the world and you can see that in the last leg where my technique went out the window," he said.

"I didn't get ahead until 300-and-something metres and I think after the 350m turn he was back ahead of me because he had a better push off the wall than me.

The London Aquatics Centre
London was a late replacement for Malaysia as the competition host

"Somehow, through grit and determination, I managed to pull it back and it was just about getting my hand on the wall first.

"It hadn't been an easy journey but I wanted to prove to myself and to British Swimming that I was worth the gamble of a wildcard because they had supported me above and beyond what I would have expected from them and to thank them for that support."

But approaching the Worlds, the last big event before Tokyo next year, it is a much more confident Jones who is preparing to take on Malyon again with Argentina's Inaki Basiloff and Australian veteran Matt Levy also likely to be in the hunt for medals.

Jones secured the qualification standard at the British trials, much to his relief, and is now focussed on training and experiencing the special atmosphere of a home event.

"I'm excited at the prospect of walking out for my main race and hearing the roar from the crowd," he said. "We want as many people as possible to come along and get behind us as they did during the Olympics and Paralympics and it will be a phenomenal event.

"I've been looking to Tokyo ever since Rio finished. Tokyo is the end goal and I want to go there and retain my Paralympic title but all of the major meets in between are good markers to see where I am against the rest of the world and ensure I am still on track."

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