Dan Jervis Dream Comes True As Perseverance Pays Off With Olympic Ticket Five Years After Heartache

2021-04-18 Reading Time: 7 minutes
Dan Jervis has waited seven years for his Olympic selection - images, clockwise, in action this week, by Georgie Kerr/British Swimming; has official profile picture at British Swimming; on the podium with champion Ryan Cochrane, of Canada, and Australia's Mack Horton, at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and (centre) flying the Welsh Dragon - photos courtesy of Ian MacNicol
Dan Jervis has waited seven years for his Olympic selection - images, clockwise, in action this week, by Georgie Kerr/British Swimming; has official profile picture at British Swimming; on the podium with champion Ryan Cochrane, of Canada, and Australia's Mack Horton, at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and (centre) flying the Welsh Dragon - photos courtesy of Ian MacNicol

Seven long years of waiting for Olympic selection came to an end in London this evening when Dan Jervis grabbed a ticket to the Covid-delayed Tokyo Olympic Games in 14:51.49 over 1500m freestyle four years after he entered the 2016 trials the favourite but emerged distraught in fourth place.

Seven long years after he made a spectacular breakthrough as a junior at the top of his age peers in Europe and on a 1500m podium with giants Ryan Cochrane, of Canada, and Mack Horton, of Australia, Dan Jervis put the bombshell events of 2016 to eternal rest with a dominant display at the London Aquatic Centre, his time the fourth fastest of his career.

As Jervis noted when he spoke to former Wales and Britain teammate Jazz Carlin on poolside while beaming form ear to ear, the time was only relevant on one score: it had to be inside 14:55.91 for a ticket to Tokyo.

It was. Jervis said: ” I think you only have to know me for five seconds to know this is a dream come true.

“I think you only need to know me for five seconds to know that this is my dream! Ever since I was a young boy, I only wanted to be an Olympian, that’s all I ever wanted to be. I’m really happy with the time – but honestly, I don’t really care about that. All I care about is I’ve got the consideration time for the Olympic Games. Everyone who’s ever supported me knows how much that would’ve meant to me, I appreciate that so much. It’s come true!”

Dan Jervis –

Asked what the past week of living in a Covid-safe bubble had been like, Jervis said:

“I was really happy with the 400m, the 800m, I just missed the time but that really gave me the confidence for the 1500m. I’ve found this week one of the hardest competitions I’ve ever done, not so much the swimming – everyone has swum fantastically – but being stuck in my room for a week, it’s been really tough, not being able to see many people. That’s the situation, and if we didn’t have that we wouldn’t be able to compete, so I’m very grateful for everyone who has put this competition on. This is an absolute dream. To my family at home, when I’m able to, I’m going to give you all a hug – I can’t wait to see them when I get back home. I’m sure my phone is exploding right now, I can’t wait to Facetime my family and have a takeaway tonight!”

Dan Jervis – photo by Georgie Kerr, courtesy of British Swimming

A reach of a hand shy of the Tokyo cut for the 800m when taking the win in 7:50Kieran Bird, the 400m winner inside Tokyo cut right there with him, Jervis emerged from the 16-length scrap to say he would “smash it on Sunday”. The cut set at 14:55.91, there was every chance he would.

Back in 2016, he had been billed as the the next Welshman after David Davies, Olympic 1500m bronze in 2004, Olympic silver in the inaugural 10km Marathon in 2008, capable of muscling in on the biggest of medals in distance freestyle. 

Jervis popped up on the radar of international swimming as European Junior champion for Britain and bronze medallist in the Commonwealth Games 1500m freestyle final for Wales with a stunner of a senior breakthrough back in 2014. Come the Olympic trials in 2016 and Jervis finished fourth.

Dan Jervis was devastated. This had been the moment he’d dreamt of since boyhood: his first Olympic Games. Gone. But not forever. The thing about folk who can crack 15 minutes in a 1500m freestyle is that they tend to be tough and they’re rarely if ever to be found giving up.

And so it was that we found Jervis, coached by Adam Baker at Swansea Aquatics, just one year later in 2017 refusing to let the two who made the GB team for Rio 2016 get away before Dan Jervis got away from them on his way to a 14:51.48 lifetime best and qualification for the 2017 World Championships. Two years on, he challenged the 14:45.95 British record of fellow Welshman David Davies with a 14:46.51.

Today’s effort was 5sec shy of that but granted Dan Jervis a fourth entry on the all-time British Top 10 ranking Davies rules yet:

The All-time British sub-15-min Club:

  • 14:45.95 Davies, David LCM2004
  • 14:46.51 Jervis, Daniel LCM2019
  • 14:53.83 Milne, Stephen LCM2014
  • 14:55.23 Shuttleworth, Tim LCM2016
  • 14:55.30 Fogg, Daniel LCM2012
  • 14:58.74 Lelliott, Jay LCM2014
  • 14:58.94 Smith, Graeme LCM2001

All-time top 10 British Performances:

  • 14:45.95 Davies, David LCM2004
  • 14:46.11 Davies, David LCM2008
  • 14:46.51 Jervis, Daniel LCM2019
  • 14:48.11 Davies, David LCM2005
  • 14:48.67 Jervis, Daniel LCM2018
  • 14:51.21 Davies, David LCM2007
  • 14:51.48 Jervis, Daniel LCM2017
  • 14:52.11 Davies, David LCM2008
  • 14:52.41 Davies, David LCM2009
  • 14:53.57 Davies, David LCM2007

On the cusp of the pandemic changing the course of the 2020 calendar and the goals the swimming community had set for Olympic year, Jervis warmed up at the Luxembourg Meet in February with a 14:57.90. That would be his only sub-15 of the year. 

Fast forward a year and at the Manchester International in February in a bubble in the midst of Covid lockdown, Dan Jervis snuck inside the 15 minutes for the eighth time in his career, on 14:58.05. Today marked his ninth sub-15.

It was back in 2014 at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, with David Davies cheering him on, Welsh flag in hand, that Jervis first raced inside 15 minutes, on 14:55.33 for bronze on an illustrious podium and after a tremendous comeback from fourth that saw him claw back a big deficit from Australian Jordan Harrison and snatch a medal by 0.39sec. 

He was one of those swimmers with great prospects known to those about him but not far beyond, the question ‘where did he come from’ heard quite often on the media benches at Glasgow 2014.

Jervis swam for Neath Swimming Club until the age of 15 and then moved to train with Swim Swansea National Performance squad.

At the start of 2014, Jervis’ best 1500 was a 15.45. At nationals in April he crunched that back to 15:16, winning the 17-18 age title in the bargain and making international teams for the European Junior team for Britain and the Welsh Commonwealth Games squad.

At the continental showcase he took the European junior crown in 15.07 and joined teammates for bronze in the 4x200m free relay.

Just two weeks later, Jervis shaved his best time back a touch further to make the Commonwealth final: 15:06.60. A season away from a sub-15, perhaps? Jervis had greater ambitions: 14:55.33 is what he clocked for bronze behind Ryan Cochrane (CAN) and Mack Horton (AUS) and a touch ahead of Jordan Harrison (AUS) after a storming finish.

For much of the race it looked set to be Cochrane, Horton and a bronze for Harrison, so far back was the next wave. At the 1,00m mark, Harrison, a 14:50 man, was more than 5sec clear of next best. With 300m to go, the gap had been reduced to 3.5sec and although 18-year-old Jervis was looking good, it seemed that 6 laps would not be enough to get to the Australia aiming for bronze.

Dan Jervis in illustrious company on the podium with champion Ryan Cochrane, of Canada, and Australia's Mack Horton, at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow - photo courtesy of Ian MacNicol
Dan Jervis in illustrious company on the podium with champion Ryan Cochrane, of Canada, and Australia’s Mack Horton, at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow – photo courtesy of Ian MacNicol

With 200m to go, the deficit was 2.5sec, and with 100m to go still 1.5sec. At the last turn: 14:27.24 to 14:28.47. Jervis, in lane 3, drove off the wall like a teenager possessed, his trail, taste and eye on the was over in lane 1. He honed in on it like a Great White bent on a seal supper.

  • Harrison: 28.47 last lap
  • Jervis: 26.86 – the fastest in the race. 14:55.33 – a huge personal best and ahead of Harrison’s 14:55.71. Welsh bronze, up in the stands the sounds of cheering from David Davies, the 2006 champion for Wales and an Olympic and World-Championships medallist who holds the British record at 14:45.95.

With that, Jervis became the 55th member of the sub-15min club, all suits, and the 49th member in a textile suit. Recalling the moment, former Britain international Grant Turner, when working for FINIS as Marketing Manager, Europe, when the kit maker signed Jervis up, said:

“Dan’s 1500m freestyle race was a true highlight of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Dan claimed a truly brilliant bronze medal after being 15 meters down at 1200m mark—it was a remarkable swim! Not only is Dan a star of the future, but he is a star of today, and FINIS is proud to be supporting him on his journey through 2015 and during 2016.”

Dan Jervis would not get inside his 2014 high until nationals in 2017, when he clocked 14:51.48 for a ticket to the World Championships in Budapest that year. A good sign for his follow up at 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games the year after. Once again, Daniel Jervis put a little dent in Aussie pride, Jack McLoughlin the local hero as champion on 14:47.09, Jervis on 14:48.67, Horton relegated to bronze in 14:51.05. Great race.

The pre-Covid lockdowns season of 2019 brought a second appearance at World Championships and Jervis finished 13th in heats. In Tokyo, his dream to be an Olympian realised, the new dream will be to make the final, after which anything is possible, as David Davies would doubtless have told him.

The flow of the London 2021 fight:

PlaceNameYoBClub Time  Pt (& splits) 
1.Daniel Jervis(96)Swansea Uni 14:51.49  932 
 50m 27.32100m 56.56150m 1:25.98200m 1:55.69250m 2:25.36300m 2:55.12350m 3:24.93400m 3:54.69 
 450m 4:24.67500m 4:54.57550m 5:24.77600m 5:55.06650m 6:25.22700m 6:55.10750m 7:25.09800m 7:54.97 
 850m 8:25.02900m 8:54.87950m 9:24.801000m 9:54.621050m 10:24.461100m 10:54.201150m 11:24.061200m 11:53.69 
 1250m 12:23.671300m 12:53.581350m 13:23.521400m 13:53.361450m 14:22.971500m 14:51.49   
2.Tobias Robinson(96)Loughboro NC 15:01.35  902 
 50m 27.79100m 57.83150m 1:27.87200m 1:58.15250m 2:27.89300m 2:58.04350m 3:28.14400m 3:58.38 
 450m 4:28.35500m 4:58.53550m 5:28.56600m 5:58.70650m 6:28.71700m 6:58.95750m 7:28.95800m 7:59.02 
 850m 8:29.12900m 8:59.47950m 9:29.631000m 9:59.931050m 10:30.041100m 11:00.341150m 11:30.801200m 12:01.28 
 1250m 12:31.641300m 13:02.211350m 13:32.461400m 14:02.721450m 14:32.661500m 15:01.35   
3.Luke Turley(00)Bath NC 15:07.71  883 
 50m 27.48100m 57.36150m 1:27.51200m 1:57.91250m 2:27.98300m 2:58.15350m 3:28.58400m 3:58.73 
 450m 4:29.13500m 4:59.36550m 5:30.04600m 6:00.71650m 6:31.33700m 7:02.13750m 7:32.76800m 8:03.47 
 850m 8:34.23900m 9:04.96950m 9:35.201000m 10:05.561050m 10:35.981100m 11:06.171150m 11:36.611200m 12:07.03 
 1250m 12:37.401300m 13:07.791350m 13:38.581400m 14:09.081450m 14:38.931500m 15:07.71   

Leah Crisp Takes 1500m But No Brits In Historic Tokyo Race

There will be no British woman in the inaugural women’s 1500m freestyle in Tokyo, the win to Leah Crisp in 16:46.09 today in London, the cut 16:04.14. No disrespect for any of those in the swim but Britain’s women’s distance freestyle program, in contrast to other events, has collapsed, with no qualifiers in the 400, 800 nor 1500m just 13 years after double gold for Becky Adlington in the 400 and 800m, her double bronze at London 2012 and then the double silver in the same events for Jazz Carlin in 2016.

PlaceNameYoBClub Time  Pt 
1.Leah Crisp(01)Bath NC 16:46.09  765 
 50m 31.33100m 1:04.68150m 1:38.77200m 2:12.47250m 2:46.09300m 3:19.60350m 3:52.85400m 4:26.26 
 450m 4:59.57500m 5:32.82550m 6:06.40600m 6:39.89650m 7:13.68700m 7:47.25750m 8:21.15800m 8:54.92 
 850m 9:29.05900m 10:02.90950m 10:36.901000m 11:10.731050m 11:44.591100m 12:18.361150m 12:52.401200m 13:26.33 
 1250m 14:00.431300m 14:34.381350m 15:08.711400m 15:42.491450m 16:15.181500m 16:46.09   
2.Lucy Charles-Barclay(93)Epping For’t 16:46.26  765 
 50m 29.72100m 1:02.25150m 1:35.55200m 2:09.21250m 2:43.07300m 3:17.13350m 3:51.01400m 4:25.16 
 450m 4:59.05500m 5:33.14550m 6:07.07600m 6:40.82650m 7:14.67700m 7:48.50750m 8:22.25800m 8:55.89 
 850m 9:29.63900m 10:03.51950m 10:37.221000m 11:10.911050m 11:44.791100m 12:18.671150m 12:52.681200m 13:26.68 
 1250m 14:00.631300m 14:34.431350m 15:08.371400m 15:41.941450m 16:14.811500m 16:46.26   
3.Emily Clarke(97)Loughboro Un 16:59.68  735 
 50m 31.43100m 1:05.46150m 1:39.15200m 2:12.18250m 2:45.32300m 3:18.61350m 3:51.50400m 4:25.16 
 450m 4:58.78500m 5:32.93550m 6:06.66600m 6:40.55650m 7:14.21700m 7:48.18750m 8:21.95800m 8:56.06 
 850m 9:29.86900m 10:04.42950m 10:38.521000m 11:13.101050m 11:47.351100m 12:22.321150m 12:56.771200m 13:31.55 
 1250m 14:05.661300m 14:40.531350m 15:15.401400m 15:50.581450m 16:24.901500m 16:59.68   
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