OLYMPIC swimmer Liam Tancock will miss Exeter City's big return to the The Football League as he tries to strike gold in Beijing next month.

But the life-long Grecians' fan is determined to stay close to his home-town team in the Chinese capital and has packed his red and white Exeter shirt for the 5,000 mile trip.

Paul Tisdale's team end five years in the non-League wilderness when they face Darlington on August 9 - the day after the opening ceremony in Beijing.

By the time the closing ceremony takes place on August 24, Exeter will also have played Shrewsbury and Bournemouth in League 2 as well as Southampton in the first round of the Carling Cup.

Tancock plans to follow events at St James Park by logging on daily to the club's official website while his second cousin, Exeter defender Dean Moxey, will be texting him the latest information.

Tancock said: "I'll be using my down time while I'm out in China to keep in touch with what's going on at the club.

"I'll have my Exeter shirt in my suitcase. It's definitely going with me to Beijing.

"I'll be wearing it as often as I can out there."

Tancock, 23, is one of Great Britain's leading medal hopes in Beijing.

He set a new world 50 metres backstroke record at the British Olympic trials in April.

He went on the pitch at St James Park before the home game with Aldershot in April to show off to 5,000 fans the 100 metres backstroke gold medal he won at the World Short-Course Championships in Manchester.

He added: "I'd love to do the same when I get back from the Olympics.

Exeter have been very supportive of me and I'd love the chance to show off another medal to the crowd when I get back from Beijing."

Tancock cannot remember the first Exeter game he attended, but he has experienced a roller-coaster of emotions as a fan.

He was at Old Trafford when the Devon club memorably held Manchester United to a goalless draw in the Third Round of the FA Cup in 2005.

Tancock, dad Tony and brother Ryan were distraught when the Grecians lost to Morecambe in the the 2007 Conference Play-Off Final.

But they were all smiles 12 months later as they overcame Cambridge 1-0 at Wembley to book their place in League 2.

Tancock went on: "It was an amazing experience, definitely one of my highlights as a supporter.

"Twelve months earlier lost 2-1 against Morecambe at the same stage so there were a few nerves.

"I was with my dad and my brother. It was a real party atmosphere afterwards, but I had to stick to orange juice because of my training.

"It feels great to see Exeter back in the League after a five-year absence.

"My family still live in Exeter, while I'm now based at Loughborough.

"Because of my training I don't get to see many Exeter games live, maybe four or five a season.

"We play Notts County this coming season so I will definitely be making an effort to see that one because it's only 20 miles down the road.

"I've supported Exeter all my life. I'm from the city, and very passionate about the football club.

"I can't remember my first game. But I was looking through the family photo album the other day and there I was with an Exeter City flat cap on. I must have been about five years old!"

To follow Liam's progress at the Olympic Games and to find out more about career, visit
www.liamtancock.com