Wheelchair racer Ben Rowlings will be calling on past experience this week as he prepares to compete in his second Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Whilst some would have been satisfied with ninth place in both the T34 100m and 800m events in Rio five years ago, the 25-year-old knows he can do more and is taking a very different approach this time around.
“It’s about going in and enjoying these Games,” explains Rowlings, who will represent Team GB again on the track over 100m and 800m distances.
“I know if I can stay as relaxed as I can then my racing is going to be a million times better than it was in Rio.
“In Rio I made the mistake of trying to meet certain performance targets, but now the pressure is off me in a sense.
“I’m not funded by British Athletics so I’m not worrying so much about hitting times and targets.”
Much has changed in the past five years for Rowlings who moved from home in Shrewsbury to the University of Stirling in 2017. He describes it a “seismic shift” juggling studies with high performance sport.
But, whilst buying a house with his girlfriend helped him settle in and feel fully at home, the recently upgraded sport centre developments at the university have provided the perfect training environment.
“The facilities at Stirling provide a performance base which has massively helped me prepare for the last three years,” he said.
“To have all these facilities and equipment at my fingertips helps me optimise my performance whether it’s trying to hit targets in the gym or on the track.
“Being able to go straight from the gym to the track, to do specific wheelchair racing training is something I’ve never really had before.”
Rowlings, who graduated this summer with a BA(Hons) in English Studies and Education, has so far competed in three World Championships, finishing as high as fourth, and three European Championships, where he won two silver medals in 2018.
There is very little separating the top competitors and over the longer 800m distance, just six tenths of a second between the fastest six racers.
Such tiny margins give him confidence that it could be anyone’s race: “I’ve always been there or thereabouts in finals and the guys I’ve raced at those championships are exactly the same guys I’ll be racing in Tokyo.
“So I know what I’m up against and I know what I’m capable of. On my day I’m one of the quickest racers in the world.”
Commenting on Rowlings' journey to the Games, University of Stirling Head of Performance Sport, David Bond, said: “We are incredibly proud of Ben’s achievements and we can’t wait to get behind him when he competes for ParalympicsGB in Tokyo. He is an extremely dedicated and determined athlete and it will be fantastic to see yet another student athlete from Stirling represent on the world’s greatest sporting stage.”
Find out more about performance sport at the University of Stirling.