Dan Jervis Talks Bobby Finke, Homesickness And An Open-Topped Car Parade On His Tokyo Return

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Dan Jervis: Photo Courtesy: Georgia Kerr, British Swimming

Dan Jervis had never heard of Bobby Finke before the American blew the field away with a 25.78 final 50 en-route to 1500 free gold in Tokyo.

Finke had already won the 800m at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre when he dropped the hammer to claim victory in the longest race in the pool ahead of Mykhaylo Romanchuk and Florian Wellbrock – European and world champions respectively – with defending gold medallist Gregorio Paltrinieri one place off the podium.

A further place back in fifth came Jervis, the Welshman oblivious to the existence of Finke, who shocked those looking on with his final 100m that turned the race on its head.

Jervis, though, didn’t really want to be drawn on whether Finke and his tactics are a gamechanger, instead telling Swimming World.

“He had the competition of his life in the competition you want to have that in.

“It does make you think right well something else we have got to think of now but in the past I have looked at other people’s races, race models, too much and focused on them and kind of taken my eye off the ball when it comes to my strategies.

“I can only swim the best race I can: I can’t control anyone else.”

Gwangju The Turning Point

The two-time Commonwealth medallist had admittedly crumbled when he walked out in the gladiatorial arena at the 2019 worlds in Gwangju, South Korea.

Come 2021 and it was a different matter.

The 25-year-old was fifth at the European Championships in Budapest in May – essentially a dress rehearsal for Tokyo – where he repeated that finish.

Of what had made the difference, Jervis explained that covid – while acknowledging its horror – had forced him to sit back and assess what he wanted from his swimming career.

Which was?

“My goal ever since I was a young boy was to go to the Olympics and win the Olympics, be the world champion and hold the world record.

“The way things were going that wasn’t going to be a possibility for me.

“I needed to step back, I needed a break from swimming: you see how intense the sport is and I love the sport of swimming but it is very intense and it takes up so much of your time.

“I moved home to my mum and dad’s house and it gave me chance to experience the area of where I’m from: I am from a village called Resolven and I lived there for 22 years but I still didn’t know the mountains and the area very well – I only knew the main roads. It gave me chance to explore a bit and I think that is what I needed.”

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Photo Courtesy:

Jervis was 13th in Gwangju and failed to break 15mins despite having entered the meet as apparently odds-on to make the final.

He knew the issue was mental rather than physical and accepted change was needed by speaking with psychologists and counsellors to work back to the root cause.

He said:

“I said to my psychologist and my counsellor what I want to feel before I walk out for ….not so much the Olympic final because the final is always fine for me, it’s the heat I get nervous for and so what I wanted to feel before I walked out for the heat.

“And it was just to feel comfortable, be really comfortable in the surroundings, to be happy and positive and that’s exactly how I felt. I think that was the turning point for me.”

Fears were faced head on and sessions with Jervis and the psychologists identified events in his past that had had a legacy.

He said:

“I used to get extremely homesick – to the point where I would come home from training camps early. It was a really big problem.

“I’m 25 and I remember in Commonwealth Games year in 2018 I went on a training camp in January and I was extremely homesick and I wasn’t enjoying it. I didn’t want to swim because I was missing home so much.

“We just worked back from there really.

“There was a bad experience I had when I went away with school once: I got a little bit picked on on this trip – only once but that really stuck with me.

“I was only away for four days with the school but it really ingrained a fear in me. It is hard to say because I haven’t had a bad experience in going away: yes, I miss home a little bit but I have never been picked on since.

“We had to go back to that, back to the root of it and just work our way through it. It was hard, it was a journey but I am so glad we did it and I feel so much better about it now.

“To be honest, I am still working my way through it now but in a much better place.”

Looking back, Gwangju was the turning point for Jervis, who said:

“100%. Even my mam said to me, I am such a different person to what I was two years ago, I am so much more calm.

“I am a very uptight person – I take everything very seriously, I take myself quite seriously – and in life you are not supposed to do that so I think I just have to be like ‘oh well there is nothing I can do about that’.

“The things I can control I will try my best to control and the things that are not in my control have got to just go with it.”

Tokyo And Beyond And A Hero’s Welcome

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Daniel Jervis; Photo Courtesy: FINIS

Having faced those fears head on, Jervis underlined his right to be at the top table in Tokyo – not that he is content with that in the long term, saying:

“To come out fifth is fantastic but to be honest, fifth is great but when I finish my career I don’t want to be fifth in the world, I want to be number one.

“It’s good for now.”

Jervis was given a hero’s welcome on his return to Resolven, where his parents live.

He explained:

“It was amazing when I came home from Tokyo. I’m from a small village and I am the first Olympian from my village and maybe the valley.

“They put on this big parade: I was so mortified when I came home. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it but beforehand I was so nervous. I was probably more nervous to see what they had done than the actual race!

“They kind of closed off the village and they got me in a really nice, open-topped car and they drove me through the village really slow. They lined the streets with Welsh and British flags and cheered me home.

“Before it I was like ‘this is going to be the worst day of my life’ because I do not like attention like that.

“But by the end I was waving, I was milking it – I felt like a member of the Royal Family!”