SWINDON Dolphin team captain Mathew Sambrook says that 'nitty-gritty' of the season has just begun for him.

The 17-year-old picked up seven senior championship medals, including five golds, more than any other man at the Wiltshire ASA County Youth Championships over three days of competition at the Link Centre.

Sambrook was crowned county champion in the freestyle event over 200 and 400m, the 400m individual medley, the butterfly and backstroke, both over 200m. He was also involved in the men's team relay successes for Dolphin and collected senior bronze in the 100m butterfly and 200m individual medley. But the teenager has his sights set firmly on his ultimate goal, making the National Championships this season.

“This is the start of a few months where the training makes sense,” he said. “Because the championships help to see how far we've come from when we started up again in August. This is the part of the season where it's down to the nitty gritty.”

To reach the National Championships the swimmer, who specialises in the freestyle events, will need to hit a qualifying time in a 50m pool despite training and competing predominantly in the pool half that length.

His first opportunity will come in Sheffield next month, followed by the South West Regional Championships, which he has already qualified for, in Plymouth, then he'll swim in Cardiff in June.

“The goal for these three competitions is to qualify for the nationals in Sheffield in August,” he said. “My specialisms are the 200m, 400m and 1500m freestyle. I prefer the 400m and love the challenge of making myself as good as I can be, so I push hard in training. We all do.”

Sambrook trains with his Dolphin club mates for nine two-hour sessions a week. He takes Sundays off and trains twice on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, either side of classes at College. Three of his training partners, Charlotte Pitts, James Clark and Sophie Bartlett have already secured their places at the Nationals and Sambrook is hoping the support of his team mates can help him to join them.

“I started with the Dophin when I was around about 7,” he said. “If I was training on my own, I wouldn't have got halfway to the level that I am now.

“There's a good team atmosphere. In training we push each other, we work as a whole team and then we get the results together. In competition, you might be in the pool by yourself, but the preparation and the training happens as part of a team.”

The youngster accepts that swimming back and forth for 18 hours a week a can sometimes add up, but says swimming as part of Swindon Dolphin, coupled with his love of competition keeps him focused.

“The goal keeps me motivated,” he said. “When I'm down or struggling I look at the goal. I examine what I want to achieve by the end of the season. If I don't train, I don't improve.

“Everyone goes through periods where they struggle in training, where it's not happening in the pool, but you look to the goal which has been agreed with the coach continue to work as a team.

“The rest of the team can sometimes pull you out of the slump. We all get down at some point, but the motivation to succeed always wins you round.”