30 August 2016Jazz looks back at her amazing time at the Olympic Games in Rio
Having been left feeling hollow after the chance to compete at a home Olympics four years ago was taken away from her, due to an untimely bout of glandular fever, the Swindon swimmer, who now lives in Bradford on Avon, was forced to put on a brave face and prepare for another four year cycle.
Opting against turning her back on the sport, Carlin had to ease herself back into training, but she was dealt another blow when she came up just short of the medals at the World Championships in Barcelona a year later.
The Tigersharks swimmer vowed to come back stronger and looked well on course to be competing at her first Games when she claimed double gold at the European Championships in Berlin in 2014.
Jazz with several of her Great Britain swimming teammates prior to heading out to Brazil
However, now 25, Carlin thought her dreams of performing on the biggest stage were being taken like a carpet from under her feet again.
This time it was a rib injury that she sustained in February that was putting at risk a dream that had been brewing since first putting a toe in the Health Hydro pool, dressed in her Disney’s Aladdin’s Princess Jasmine swimming costume.
“In 2013, when I came fourth at the World Championships, that was a low point,” she told the Advertiser.
“This year, I had the injury in February/March time and it just knocked me back and I didn’t know if I would be at the Olympics.
“I thought ‘oh God, am I even going to be able to go’.
“That panicked me a little bit but I have had great support from all the staff at Bath University.”
Carlin put the pain to the back of her mind and despite still having the niggling injury when she competed at European Championships - her last major event prior to Brazil - in June, taking two silvers, she did not let it hinder her preparations for Rio.
It was at the British Championships in May where Carlin secured the time required to put her on the plane to Brazil but nerves had got the better of her in Glasgow and she had to dig deep.
Jazz celebrates after finishing second in the 800m freestyle final
However, it was a different Carlin who headed to Rio. It was as though the knowledge that she was going to have the chance to fulfil her dream had lifted the weight off her shoulders and it was evident for all to see.
“Leading into it, my family and friends were saying that it was the most relaxed that they had ever seen me,” she said.
“Normally before a competition I can get a bit nervous and on edge but I felt quite calm.
“I had had a great block of training but I didn’t really know. Sometimes you can have a great block of training but you might not race well - like in 2013.
“I had been waiting for the Olympic experience and to race at the Olympic Games for a long time, so when it came round I enjoyed every second - I wanted it to be the best experience that I have ever had.
“I think because I knew exactly what I needed to do and how I was going to swim my race, it was just a case of going out and doing it. If that was enough to get me on the podium, I knew that I had given it everything.”
Having enjoyed a pre-training camp in Belo Horizonte with the rest of the British swimming team, Carlin flew down to Rio on the Tuesday before the opening ceremony and was one of the first to take to the pool for Great Britain.
The Tigersharks swimmer realises she has finished second in the Olympic 400m freestyle final
It was only in her heats of the 400m freestyle, when the former Wootton Bassett School pupil clocked a personal best time to make the final, did everyone know that she meant business.
“Everyone wants to swim well at the Olympics,” she said.
“I think all the other competitions throughout the year are quite meaningless.
“At the start of the year, my coach and I sat down and said that I was going to go for two medals.
“Some people would have said that I only really had a chance in one but I thought that I was just going to give my everything to both and see what happens.
“When I did my first swim and I came away with a personal best, I was a bit surprised really and I think that definitely boded well for the rest of the week.”
The final of the 400m may be a bit of a blur for Carlin now as she looks back, as it is for those who stayed up into the early hours of Monday morning to watch her back home.
However, the look of shock as she touched home and looked up at the clock to see she had taken silver, shaving two seconds off of her personal best in the process, will live long in the memory.
Jazz Carlin on the podium with her silver medal from the 400m final along with winner Katie Ledecky (centre) and bronze medallist Leah Smith
“When I touched the wall, to see I had the silver medal, it was just shock that I had done it,” explained Carlin.
“Just to realise my dream had come true was a special moment. Obviously, everyone wants the gold medal, everyone wants to be stood on the top of the podium hearing the national anthem but when you have got Katie Ledecky (who took gold) in your event, it is quite tough to do that.
“I am pretty proud of myself actually. After all the years of training, I have managed to achieve my dreams.”
The 400m freestyle was arguably the weaker of Carlin’s two events, which should have meant the pressure was off when it came to the 800m freestyle four days later, even if American superstar Ledecky was still standing in the way.