June 19, 2012
By Evan Roberts
AUBURN - This summer, sophomore swimmer James Disney-May will complete a life-long dream that very few athletes get to experience as he will not only compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics, but also have the opportunity to compete on his native soil in front of his friends and family. Growing up in Greater London, Disney-May will fulfill a childhood dream when he lunges into the pool in July.
"When I found out that the Olympics were going to be in London that just intensified the desire for me to go out and make the Olympics," Disney-May said. "Not a lot of people can say that they were able to compete in the Olympics in their home country. It is a once in a lifetime thing.
"When everyone in England found out it was going to be in London, the desire just grew because they really want to compete for the home crowd and home nation. Nothing beats having your friends and family watching."
Disney-May began to swim at a young age and after showing signs of being a good swimmer, a school teacher suggested that he join a club team. As he evolved as a swimmer, he moved to a boarding school that had a swimming program.
Once he became a junior at the boarding school, Disney-May realized he could swim over in the United States collegiately.
"I didn't know anything about swimming in the United States until my junior year," Disney-May said. "I got a new coach who was from Australia, and he got me started thinking the possibilities of going to the United States. He also knew Coach Hawke, so that was the contact that I had.
"But, even when I got here, I didn't know how the collegiate system worked. I didn't know anything about NCAAs, SECs, or even where Alabama was when I came here."
Although Disney-May visited other universities, he realized that Auburn was the place for him. With the coaches, facilities and Olympic tradition, he knew Auburn was the place for him to succeed with what he wanted to accomplish.
"I remember the first time I came here on the recruiting trip and I had no idea what to expect. It amazed me. I was in awe," he said. "The facilities, the coaches and the team made me really want to come here. I thought if I came here it would be the best place for me. I really like the coaches. I thought they were great and could really help me with what I wanted to do."
Auburn's world renowned reputation also played a major influence on his decision to come to Plains.
"I also liked the reputation that Auburn had," Disney-May continued. "The sprinters in the past have been the best in the world. It is renowned for that. It is known around the world as the best sprint program in the world, undoubtedly. The program has had so many succeed, and that is why it is so well known. I think a lot of kids aspire to be here."
This season, Disney-May helped Auburn win its 16th consecutive SEC Championship. In his sophomore season, Disney-May was awarded with four All-America honors and was a three-time SEC Champion in the 800 freestyle relay, 400 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay.
"I have grown a lot since I have come here as a swimmer," Disney-May claimed. "When I came here I was just rough talent. I was just OK. I have gotten so much better since I got here. Just with the training program, everything in my detail has been a lot better. My technique has gotten better since I got here. I know I have gotten stronger in the gym. All around, I think I have become a better swimmer."
In April, the Surrey, England, native qualified for the 30th Summer Olympiad in the 4x100m freestyle relay after finishing with a time of 49.48 to claim silver and earn a spot on his first Olympic team. Disney-May will be the youngest member of the 4x100m Freestyle Relay quartet to qualify at the 2012 British Championships. He is the first Auburn swimmer to compete in their home country since his head coach, Brett Hawke, represented Australia in the Sydney Games in 2000.
"It is a dream come true. I couldn't think of anything better. My friends and family have tickets to see me. I am going to have a lot of people supporting me. The atmosphere already is intensifying with the buildup. I am sure it is going to be crazy in the city. I am just excited really. I don't know what to expect. I just know it is going to be an overwhelming, enjoyable experience."