From virtual unknown to national treasure. Britain has already discovered a vast amount about Rebecca Adlington, double Olympic champion, these past few days.
The teenager is a world-class swimmer. She loves designer shoes. She hates the sea but is going on a cruise. She will get an Olympic rings tattoo done ASAP. She celebrated her two golds here with a McDonald's. The good news for British swimming is that Adlington yesterday described her ground-breaking achievements as being "all about getting experience".
London 2012 is when she will really mean business, and she intends to keep a calm head and steady focus on her sporting career. If the nation's crop of young aquatic talent – of which she is now the shining star – has come to fruition as planned, the hosts will make one heck of a splash in the pool, especially in the women's events.
Those in action here, almost all of them reaching finals, included Jo Jackson, 21, who won bronze in the 100m freestyle, Fran Halsall, 18, Jemma Lowe, 18, Hannah Miley, 19, Ellen Gandy, 17, Lizzie Simmonds, 17, and Gemma Spofforth, 20.
"The Games in 2012 is going to be an amazing opportunity and has always been my main target, not this Olympics because I'm only 19,"� said Adlington, speaking words that might have been fundamentally applicable to any of her young GB peers.
On Saturday, Adlington added to last week's 400m freestyle win with a stunning 800m victory. She obliterated swimming's oldest world record, set 19 years ago, to win in 8 minutes 14.10 seconds and become the only British woman ever to have won two swimming golds, let alone at one Games. The short-term rewards will be national fame and huge endorsement deals, not to mention a modest increase in her lowest-tier lottery funding of £12,000 a year. The drawbacks will be coping with all the attention and intrusions.
The former Prime Minister Tony Blair was quick to offer a hug in front of the cameras here yesterday. The girl from Mansfield insists she will not be distracted. "My main focus will still be the swimming. I won't accept anything that gets in the way of that at all. If Speedo or any brand are interested, I'd love to have a kit deal because buying costumes, goggles, hats, it gets quite expensive. Just for one pair of goggles, it's £25. You don't expect them to be that much. It's just a bit of plastic. You're in the pool four hours a day so you go through a training costume every month. They go see-through or big. They're around £30." Britain's greatest female swimmer of all time should not have to wait long to get herself that kit deal. The reason she has not been told about numerous offers already is because her family and British Swimming have struggled with the deluge.
If Adlington is the most visible example of a new winning culture in the pool, set in place largely under the regime of the former performance director of British Swimming, Bill Sweetenham, she is not the only one.
At this Games, there were 21 British appearances in finals, up from 16 in Athens, 10 in Sydney and eight in Atlanta. There was one world record for Briton (Adlington's), plus two Olympic records, six European records, three Commonwealth records and 24 British records.
Yesterday's last day of action in the pool ended without further glory, although there may yet be more swimming medals in the new 10km open water events later this week. Cassie Patten, eighth in the women's 800m freestyle final, is a medal hope, as is David Davies, who yesterday finished sixth in a hugely competitive 1,500m freestyle final. "The heats were so hard and so fast that it was difficult to race hard again within 36 hours,"� the Welshman said.
"I would have liked to have gone quicker but now I've got to concentrate on getting recovered again so I'm ready for the 10km."� The 1,500m free was won by Tunisia's Oussama Mellouli, who recently returned to action after a 15-month ban for a doping offence he claimed was an honest mistake.