Rebecca Adlington seeks improvement for London Olympics

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter

Double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington insists she has yet to reach her peak level of performance.

The 22-year-old won her first World Championships title in Shanghai last week, but is still seeking improvement leading into London 2012.

"With the strength of the competition I gained a lot of confidence from the Worlds," Adlington told BBC Sport.

"However, my turns are a weakness, my race tactics need work and I don't quite have enough speed."

Adlington won a gold in the 800m and a silver in the 400m freestyle in China, but failed to reach the semi-finals in the 200m, a result which may prompt her to avoid competing in the shorter distances in future events.

"Although I enjoy it and I love competing in the 4x200m relay with the other girls, I probably need to focus more on the 400m and 800m and do the best that I can in those," added the Mansfield-born swimmer, who won gold in the 400m and 800m at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Adlington says she is learning much out of the pool as well, with her latest achievements proving she is now able to cope with the expectations placed on an Olympic champion, something she struggled with in a disappointing World Championships in Rome in 2009.

"I just let the pressure get to me," reflected Adlington.

"It was the first major meet after Beijingexternal-link and everybody was saying 'oh, she'll win two gold medals again', but I wasn't ready for that level of expectation. I was only 20 and it was a big shock.

"Now I have learnt to deal with it and most of the pressure comes from myself. I've worked with a psychologistexternal-link and that has really helped because he is someone separate from the sport and who puts things into perspective."

Adlington's improvement in form began to show last year, where she claimed titles at the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games.

However, it is this year's performances which have given her the greatest cause for optimism and she says she is now "more motivated that ever" to achieve her potential.

"Obviously last year was great experience and it's always nice to win medals, but it wasn't against the whole of the world," said Adlington.

"The World Championships are the next best thing to an Olympics and it gives me a great idea of where I am compared to the rest of the swimmers right now."

Should Adlington, as expected, qualify for the 2012 Games then she is almost certain to take time away from swimming following its conclusion.

"After Beijing I wanted to enjoy all of the opportunities that came my way and I tried to balance that with training, but it didn't work because you can't do both," she said.

"So, I will go away, have a little fun, be normal for once and then see if I miss swimming.

"If I don't feel like I can improve or don't love the sport any more then I could retire, but at the minute I absolutely love it and I don't want it to end."

You will be able to hear more from Rebecca Adlington in September's edition of British Olympic Dreams.