RAWTENSTALL disability swimmer Tom Hamer met Sir Chris Hoy earlier this year, and now he will be bidding to emulate the Olympic legend by going for gold at the Commonwealth Games this summer.
The 15-year-old Alder Grange Community Technology School pupil is one of 39 swimmers to have been named in England’s squad for the Commonwealth Games, together with Blackburn’s Joshua Walsh.
Tom, who has a learning disability that qualifies him for the S14 category, gained recognition earlier this year when he was shortlisted as part of energy company SSE’s link-up with SportsAid and their ‘Next Generation’ programme.
That led to Tom and 49 others being given the opportunity to travel to Loughborough University and have dinner with six-time Olympic gold medallist Hoy.
He also had a workshop with former Olympic silver medallist, diver Leon Taylor, who now commentates for the BBC.
Tom received an insight into dealing with the media as well as a cheque for £100 and ongoing support as part of the programme.
But selection for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow was always Tom’s main goal for the year and he was delighted to receive the good news that he had indeed been called up.
The swimming events take place between July 24 and 29 and he will line up in the England squad alongside the likes of Liam Tancock and Fran Halsall.
“I was really pleased to be selected, I found out when I came home from school and it was a great feeling,” said Tom, who swims for Burnley Bobcats.
“I am very excited to be competing at the Commonwealth Games, it’s something I only dreamed about.
“I can’t wait and I’m sure it’s going to be great.
“I will do my best and train hard as I am so proud to be representing my country.”
Tom secured four gold medals, three silvers and one bronze at the National Junior and Youth Championships over 25m in March.
That included breaking the British, European and world short course record with one minute and 59.75 seconds.
He tasted success again at the British Championships over 50m in Glasgow last month.
Tom swam a 200m freestyle personal best of two minutes 1.91 seconds on the way to gold in the same Glasgow pool that will be used for the Games.
“I felt the British Championships had gone well, with a new personal best, and I was hopeful of getting picked,” he said.
“Everyone has been saying congratulations to me and my friends and family are really proud.
“Everyone at school has been really happy for me, and I’m just really excited for the Games. It’s a really nice pool to train and swim in.
“I’m counting down the days until it starts. But I’ve got to keep training hard, and just concentrate hard until then.
“I want to get another personal best and hopefully pick up a medal.
“That would be really good.”
Tom’s 200m freestyle swim at the British Championships not only helped him qualify for the Commonwealth Games – it also booked his place at the IPC Swimming European Championships in Eindhoven in August, after he received official classification of his disability following a series of tests in April.
It means he will have little time to catch his breath following the Commonwealth Games, but he is looking to take it all in his stride.
“It’s going to be a busy summer for me with the Commonwealth Games and the Europeans,” Tom said.
“I’ve not competed at this level before, it’s a first for me so I do feel a bit of pressure but I’m also really excited.
“There’s lots to keep me busy and I just want to do as well as I can.”
Tom is trained by Burnley Bobcats head coach Mike Robinson at the St Peter’s Centre, and also trains as part of the Great Britain performance squad at Manchester Aquatics Centre.
He has competed in able body championships since the age of 10 and at just 12 years old he was part of the Bobcats relay team that swam the Channel for charity.
“I am so happy for him and extremely proud of his achievement and selection at this year’s Games,” Robinson said.
Bobcats chairman Simon Holding added: “All of his squad members and friends, parents, helpers and the committee are so thrilled and proud at his selection and wish him well.
“Everyone connected with Bobcats will certainly be cheering him on and following his progress throughout.
“This will be an experience he will never forget and hopefully the start of his future career in swimming.”
SSE are partnering with SportsAid to support the sporting stars of the future as part of their commitment to Glasgow 2014 and beyond with their SSE Next Generation ambassador programme. Keep up to date with the latest via Twitter on @YourSSE.