Reece Dunn defies expectations in gold rush thanks to ‘toughest training ever’

Reece Dunn defies expectations in gold rush thanks to ‘toughest training ever’
The Plymouth star won his third gold of the Games and broke the world record in the S14 men’s 200m individual medley

One too many Chinese takeaways nearly scuppered Reece Dunn’s Paralympic dream.

In early 2021 he was lying in bed until middayeight hours before swimmers normally stirand putting on lockdown pounds with no racing in sight.

“When I’m not competing, I’ve got nothing to train for so mentally I can’t be bothered,” said the Plymouth star.

“I’m up at five most mornings, I’m a morning person even on my days off, but I couldn’t get out of bed. My mental health wasn’t all there.

“I love a good Chinese and I was a sucker for that.”

Dunn hadn’t recovered psychologically from a bout of Covid in December, which impacted his mental health in subsequent weeks and led him to seek therapy.

Those sessions helpeda lotbut what really flicked a switch was his return to international competition in Manchester in March.

It gave him the drive to embark on a punishing 12-week training block, with his mileage already upped from 20km a week after moving from a sprint to endurance programme.

“I love competing,” said Dunn. “You train to compete. when there’s a whole 12 month block with nothing to really aim for, no end goal, it’s difficult.

Great Britain’s Reece Dunn won his third gold of the Games and broke the world record in the S14 men’s 200m individual medley (Joel Marklund/OIS/PA).

“My mentality changed in March and the 12 weeks prior to coming out here was the toughest training I’ve ever done.

“I’ve not missed many sessions and my diet has been on point. It’s just about getting every little bit right.

“My mental attitude has been top notch, I’ve been so confident going into races.

“I wasn’t nervous in the 200 IM at all, it’s not my main event, it’s probably the worst one in the programme this week. I wasn’t nervous at all.”

Dunn righted the wrong of 100m butterfly silverby his high standardsby touching out Brazil’s Gabriel Bandeira with a 200m freestyle world record.

Then he contributed a searing 51.15 split to the mixed 4x100m relayanother gold, another world record.

The odds were stacked against him doing the same again in the 200m individual medley.

Dunn picked up a left shoulder problem in Saturday’s relay and was in pain and heavily strapped for his return to racing.

Add to that a lifelong knee impairment that hampers his breaststroke kicking, the weakest of his four strokes in the medley, and expectations were low.

Cut to the final and Dunn was in his sweet spot again, blasting out a 26.82 butterfly length and leading by 0.58 seconds at the halfway stage.

Then came the breaststroke, which set him back in the way he expected and he turned for home in third, behind Ukraine’s Vasyl Krainyk and that man Bandeira.

“I didn’t expect to win gold, I just wanted to medal,” said Dunn.

“I came in thinking I had nothing to lose, the first 150 was strong and then it was about hanging on. No way did I think I’d get gold when I turned.”

Hang on he did, in a way that made him unpopular with the locals.

His 2:08.02 swim smashed reigning world champion Dai Tokairin’s world record and relegated him to fourth.

Dunn isn’t in Tokyo to make friendsjust to win medals.

Sainsbury’s is a proud supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all. Sainsbury’s commitment to helping customers to eat better has been at the heart of what we do since 1869. For more information on Sainsbury’s visit www.sainsburys.co.uk/ en http://paralympics.org.uk/

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