IT has been a hectic few weeks for record-breaking Tom Hamer and it promises to get even busier as he prepares to chase his Commonwealth Games dream.
The 15-year-old swimming sensation set an unofficial world record at the recent National Short Course Championships at Ponds Forge, Sheffield – then had to keep a date with cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy.
Tom, a pupil at Alder Grange High School who has a learning disability which qualifies him for the S14 category, broke the 200m freestyle British, European and World Short-Course record with one minute and 59.75 seconds – a record that still has to be officially recognised.
The Burnley Bobcats swimmer was a star of the championships with four gold medals, three in his favoured freestyle event in the 50m, 100m and 200m and also the 100m breaststroke.
He also picked up three silver medals, one bronze medal and five personal bests times – including that incredible 200m freestyle when he became the first swimmer to get under the magical two minute barrier.
The Rawtenstall teenager’s talents have been officially recognised as he has been short-listed long with 49 other Olympic hopefuls, as part of energy company SSE’s link-up with SportsAid and their ‘Next Generation’ programme.
Straight from his Ponds Forge heroics, Tom travelled to Loughborough University where he had dinner with six-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy and had a workshop with Olympic silver medalist, diver Leon Taylor.
He received a cheque for £100 and will receive ongoing support as a SportsAid ‘Next Generation’ athlete.
“It has been a pretty busy few weeks but Tom has taken it all in his stride,” said dad Darren, who along with his wife Liz saw him produce his stunning record-breaking swim.
“He has got pretty close to the British record and we thought he was capable of that but to go on and break the world record was remarkable.
“Of course we have to wait for it to be officially recognised but we are delighted for Tom because he has worked so hard.”
Tom has seven training sessions with Burnley Bobcats a week – four early morning and three in the evening – but also trains as part of the Great Britain Performance Squad at Manchester Acquatics Centre every Tuesday 7.30am- 10.00am (includes both swimming and land work) and is aiming for Commonwealth Games in Glasgow later this year.
He is currently awaiting official IPC (International Paralympic Committee) classification of his disability – he has to carry out a series of tests in April at Glasgow – and then he can claim international records as well.
April promises to be a busy month with Tom also taking part in the Commonwealth Games trials and then the British International Disability Championships which will double up as trials for the European Championships in Eindhoven.
“Tom takes part in the trials then has his tests for his classification so it is going to be pretty busy for him,” added Darren.
Tom has competed in able body championships since he was 10-years-old and, when he was just 12, was a part of the Bobcats relay team that swam the Channel for charity.
Now dad Darren is hoping he gets to realise his Commonwealth Games dream.
“Tom has a very good chance of going,” he said. “And it he does, it would be great for him, his school and his club.”
Alder Grange’s Curriculum Leader of PE Vanessa Holland said dedication and hard work has been the key for her star pupil.
“It shows how Tom’s dedication has paid off,” she said. “He trains six out of seven days of the week including early mornings and at night. He is going from strength to strength.”
Tom trains under Michael Robinson at the Bobcats and club spokesman Christine Norman is delighted for him.
She said: “From a Bobcats point of view obviously the whole club are extremely proud of his achievement, especially his coach, Michael Robinson and his team-mates and wish him all the success he deserves.”
The Loughborough trip gave Tom an insight in how to deal with the media and the chance to talk to other athletes in the same situation.
“It was fascinating stuff and very helpful,” added Darren. “There was a bit of role play and taking part in interviews.
“Meeting Sir Chris Hoy was a great experience but, just like his swimming, Tom just took it all in his stride.”