A DORSET Community Foundation grant helped swimmer Jacob Peters on a path that has led all the way to the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The Poole 20-year-old, who specialises in the butterfly, was this week selected as one of a 28-strong Team GB swimming squad for the delayed Tokyo games, beginning on July 23.
Jacob has been supported with three grants totalling almost £1,500 since 2017 from the Young and Talented Fund set up with the community foundation by Dorset Lord Lieutenant Angus Campbell.
His mum Rachael said the grants had been a vital help for the family getting the Poole Swimming Club youngster to galas all over the country as he established himself as a rising star.
“The grants were a huge help to us because it is so expensive when you have to drive to important meetings in Plymouth, Sheffield, Glasgow and Edinburgh,” said Mrs Peters. “It is not just expensive for the swimmer but also for the family because when they are under 18 they have to have an adult with them and the coaches want them there a day before the meeting.
“Then there is the equipment to buy, it all mounts up.”
Mrs Peters, her husband Martin and nine-year-old brother David have had a nervous week waiting for Jacob’s selection to be confirmed after he finished second at British Swimming’s selection meeting at the National Aquatic Centre last week.
Although he clocked up 51.65 seconds in the 100m butterfly, the 11th fastest time in the world this year, he still had an anxious wait for British Swimming to release its squad once it had been ratified by the British Olympic Association.
Jacob was home on a week off from training in Bath when he heard the news, but his parents were out. “We had gone to look at a car,” said Mrs Peters, “we expected to hear later so we were caught on the hop really.
“He sent us a WhatsApp saying he’d heard about the squad and ‘yep’. Martin was straight on the phone to say ‘what do you mean, yep!?’.”
The family has celebrated the call-up but Jacob has kept his feet on the ground. “Obviously he is absolutely chuffed but he knows there is a lot of work to do. He wants to come away from the Games having made an impact, he doesn’t just want to go there to make up the numbers,” said Mrs Peters.
GB coaches won’t allocate swimming berths until closer to the events in Tokyo but Mrs Peters said her son hopes to be selected in the 100m butterfly and be somewhere in the 4x100m medley relay team.
He wants to come away from the Games having made an impact, he doesn’t just want to go there to make up the numbers
It is all a long way from his days at Haymoor Junior School in Poole when he was spotted as aged eight at a gala by then Poole Swimming Club coach Robin Armayan.
When Mr Armayan left for Plymouth new coach Barry Alldrick took over. “I remember watching his first training session,” said Mrs Peters. “He pulled Jacob over and said to him ‘if you trust me, I can really improve your butterfly’ and there was never any looking back after that.”
His parents, who also fostered children, have devoted hundreds of hours and thousands of miles ferrying to competitions and training camps. “For us it was just a way to keep him out of trouble,” said his mum. “We used to think that if he was swimming or doing a sport he loved, he’s not going to be hanging round the park like some other kids. Luckily he loved swimming and was good at it.
“It is an amazing feeling that he will be going to Tokyo, we can’t go because foreign spectators aren’t allowed but we’ll be watching him. I’m not sure what’s worse, being a parent and watching it or being the athlete. The nerves were out of this world at the selection meeting.”
Dorset Community Foundation director Grant Robson said: “Jacob is a very engaging and passionate ambassador for his sport and also for the Young and Talented Fund. The idea of it is to help potential stars of the future to break through the financial burdens that could prevent them making the most of their ability so it is wonderful to see Jacob’s achievement.
“We know Jacob, his family and his coaches have put so much into this and we are absolutely delighted for them.”
Lord Lieutenant Angus Campbell said: “It is hugely exciting to hear of Jacob’s selection and it is so gratifying that a little bit of help from the fund can lead to such success. I wanted the fund to be there to give help that young people like Jacob need to ensure their talent does not get wasted.”
Find out more about the fund here. Watch Jacob’s qualifying race here.