‘I know I didn’t put the full preparation in and I ended up smashing a world record’: Daniel Wiffen excited for what the future holds

Daniel Wiffen at the end of his world record-breaking swim Picture: Sportsfile
Daniel Wiffen at the end of his world record-breaking swim in November. Picture: Sportsfile

FOR Daniel Wiffen, there is no escaping the dream.

Right above his bed at Loughborough University is a poster of the Olympic rings. On the wall opposite is a collection of action pictures from his appearance at the delayed 2020 Games in Tokyo.

“I keep them up there just as memories,” he says, "

“I like the photos… it makes me think of what I have done so far and what I want to progress to. I guess I’ll change them out when I go to Paris.”

The Magheralin man has the World Aquatic Championships in Doha next month, shoehorned into the calendar as the sport continues to play catch-up post-Covid, but this summer’s second shot at an Olympic Games is the big one.

And this time he won’t be travelling to the greatest show on earth as any kind of unknown quantity, the past year showcasing an incredible talent coming into its own on the global stage – topped off by a smashing the oldest world record in swimming when winning the 800m at November’s European short course championships last month.

Medals are one thing, but reaching peak performance when it really matters is another. Yet Wiffen has no doubt there is plenty more to come as Paris comes into view.

“Ever since I was younger my aim has been to break a world record, and to do that I really put myself in the right situation a lot of the way,” he said.

“It may sound a bit weird but I actually didn’t rest to break the world record - I just turned up at the meet and swam fast.

“It’s kind of exciting to feel that way because I know I didn’t put the full preparation in and I ended up smashing a world record that’s never been touched in 10 years and I’m just looking to build on that in the next couple of months.

“I’m really looking forward to what’s going to happen.”

A switch flicked somewhere after finishing fourth in the 800m and 1500m at last summer’s World Championships.

As a result, the eyes of the swimming world will be upon him on the road to Paris. Far from cowing at the thought of being the hunted rather than the hunter, it is a role the 22-year-old relishes as he bids to realise those Olympic podium dreams.

“I am pretty confident - I’ve got quite a bit of experience now, I think that’s what was lacking before, I hardly had the experience of every other athlete.

“This is going back to when I was younger, my coach always just drove it into me that everybody is the same and everybody is beatable. It’s not like I’m going into a race where I know somebody’s going to win.

Daniel Wiffen is a European champion
Daniel Wiffen has big ambitions in 2024 - beginning with next month's World Championships, though the Paris Olympics are the main aim. Picture by Sportsfile

“I feel the others in Europe at the moment feel that kind of way towards me, maybe they struggle to beat me on the day.

“And I think it’s just because of the amount of work I put into training, like I know what other people do in sessions in the world and I know what I can do. I can compare it and just off training I know that I can beat them, and I think that’s where the confidence comes from - it’s just training.”

Yet Wiffen knows that, when mixing it with the world’s elite, he still has plenty to prove.

“You do need to keep a level head.

“When I was younger, I was probably a bit cocky towards it, but it is really about trying to stay grounded yourself and really produce confidence inside yourself and not tell everyone about it.

“For example, before World champs in the summer I was pretty confident that I was going to win and obviously I came fourth twice. That changed something in me that it really made me more determined this season than before that I need to keep to myself, keep my head down and really go for it. Just stay quietly confident.”