A young island swimmer is very much on course to fulfil her ambition of representing Scotland at next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Kara Hanlon (16), from Stornoway, regularly travels to the mainland to participate in elite events and recently secured a win over top Scottish swimmer Hannah Miley, the holder of the European 400-metre medley title.
Through a punishing training regime, Kara hopes to further improve her times in the breaststroke to become the first athlete from the islands to compete at the Commonwealth Games.
“It’s going good,” she said. “I’m training five nights a week — three nights at the pool up in Ness, which is only 12.5 metres, and two nights at the pool in Stornoway which is 25 metres — and I do two land-based training sessions, basically in the gym.
I’ve got my prelims in January and I’m just studying at the weekends, but I’m not panicking yet.”
Three weeks ago she travelled to the North District Open and lined up against Miley in the 100 metres breaststroke.
“I got seven personal bests that day,” she said. “I beat Hannah in the 100 metres and got second in the 50 metres behind Kerry Buchan. That got me junior champion.”
Earlier this year, Kara travelled with the Western Isles team to Bermuda to participate in the inter-island games where, against many more experienced swimmers, she took two fourth places and a fifth.
Since then, however, it’s been onwards and upwards to the stage where Commonwealth representation is a realistic goal. She is only point three of a second from the qualification time in the 50 metres.
“In April I will be going to the Scottish Open and it’s also going to be a trial, so we’ll have to wait and see,” she said. “Hopefully it will happen, but it’s going to be hard work.”
Kara recently got a huge boost when a number of local businesses clubbed together to provide sponsorship help to allow her to attend top-level events on the mainland.