Swim Ace Johnson Keeps Her Feet On The Floor
Gary Baker on 22/03/2010
Most athletes fly out to warm climates abroad to gain the advantages of altitude training.
But Welsh Paralympic champion Liz Johnson has a new, novel way of reaching thousands of feet into the sky - without actually leaving the ground.
Newport-born Johnson became a national hero during the 2008 Beijing Paralympics when emotionally striking gold in the Water Cube just days after her mum, Bonnie, died of cancer.
Now she is building nicely towards London's 2012 Paralympics and the defence of her SB6 100 metres breaststroke title.
And that means the unique way of moving up in altitude while staying attached to terra firma.
Johnson, 23, said: "I could have gone to Nevada for altitude training or I could stay at home and do it. I chose to stay here which means I have to sleep in pressure chamber.
"I don't know the science behind it but it means I am at altitude while I am in the chamber then come out to train."
It will certainly be worth it if the sacrifice gives Johnson an extra edge above the competition this August when she competes in the World Swimming Championships in Eindhoven, Holland.
Not that she has a huge amount of improvement to make, that is. For Johnson did not need altitude training to be flying last November.
That is when she won International Paralympic Committee World Short Course Championships gold in Rio de Janeiro, where the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics will take place, and set a world record in the process.
Johnson clocked one minute 38.82 seconds for her 100 metres, beating silver medallist Katrina Porter, from Australia, by a whooping 15 seconds and knocking over two seconds off her own two-year-old world mark.
The Welsh wonder said: "It was a tough race because a lot of the people who finished in the top five or six at the Beijing Paralympics were not there and I didn't know how it would all pan out. I was also trying some new stuff.
"But to win gold and break the world record was very pleasing."
Using some state-of-the-art training facilities at one of Britain's leading sports centres has helped as well.
"I have re-located to Bath and have been training at the University of Bath for the past eight months. I am now starting to see that paying off.
"Our squad of swimmers have ten sessions in the pool a week, with the other squads taking their turns with us, so I'm swimming about 80 hours a month - about 20 hours a week."
And her high altitude sessions in the pressure chamber will be tested in her next big event in April, the trials for those World Championships, although, the way that Johnson has been performing in the past couple of years, her feet have hardly touched the ground anyway!
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