Swimming: Niamh wins ticket to the Games!

Swimming: Niamh wins ticket to the Games!

Niamh Robinson in action

Niamh Robinson in action

Niamh Robinson in action

Niamh with members of Pioneer 79 who have pushed her and helped her get to where she is today Pictures: COLINE HORNE

Niamh Robinson with mum Sue with the Isle of Man flag

First published in Sport
Last updated
Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Sports reporter

NIAMH Robinson’s remarkable rise from club to Commonwealth Games swimmer even caught her own family by surprise – so much so they forgot to buy tickets.

Everything has clicked in to place for the 14-year-old in the last 12 months, culminating with a call-up to the Isle of Man swimming squad for next month’s Glasgow Games. Thankfully for mum Sue, when it came to a frantic search for tickets, everything clicked too.

“The last 12 months have been phenomenal,” said Sue. “Everything happened so quickly. So when tickets went on sale for the Commonwealth Games we didn't even look in to it.”

When Niamh was named in the team – the birth place of her mother and where he proud grandparents still live – it sparked a furious scramble for tickets.

“We had to go in to the draw,” said Sue who also represented the Isle of Man at the 1990 Commonwealth Games. “We had two mobile phones, the house phone, two tablets, an iPad and laptop all going at once.

“I actually got through, ordered all the tickets but when I went to pay, it kicked me off. I was gutted.

“Thankfully, her dad John got through later and we managed to get them. Now we are just waiting for them to arrive.”

Thankfully, Niamh’s fledgling swimmer career hasn’t been left to chance.

Under the guidance and watchful eye of Pioneer 79 Swimming Club head coach Mike Wilson, Niamh’s swimming has been nutured and flourished – excelling at club, county and country level.

He has no doubt that his young prodigy has what it takes to go to the very top, a future Olympian in the making.

“I have worked with some very good swimmers in my time,” said Wilson. “Niamh has got some very good attributes. She works very, very hard, she works the technical elements of the strokes very well in training and we want to see those things progress in to competition.

“And we feel that Niamh can go as far as she wants to go in the sport. Talking about Tokyo in 2020, I really think that is a realistic goal.”

But first things first, there is the small matter of a Commonwealth Games and Niamh, being a 14-year-old schoolgirl, it is the razzamatazz of the event that excites her.

“The opening and closing ceremonies are what I am really looking forward to the most,” said Niamh briefly putting aside the real reason why she will be in Scotland. “I am really excited about that!”

While Niamh is a typical teenager in many ways, she has the desire and dedication of an elite athlete – and with that come sacrifices.

She has had to say no to more birthday parties, sleepovers and days out than she cares to remember but knows it is something she has had to do.

“We have had arguements about wanting to go to things,” said the Darwen teenager, a former Avondale Primary School pupil. “It was one of my best friend’s birthdays at the weekend but I couldn’t go because I was swimming at the Regional Championships.

“But it is one of those things and I hope they understand. If I did go to all those parties then I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

And where she is right now is the youngest member of the Isle of Man team, a young swimmer who will proudly fly the flag of her mother’s country and who will give her all in the six events she has been selected for – the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke, 200m individual medley, 50m backstroke and 50m butterfly.

Niamh had no hesitation in picking the Isle of Man, forfeiting any chances of representing England at a later date – although logistics have proved a little difficult.

“I would much rather swim for the Isle of Man as it is such a big part of my life,” added Niamh who is also member of Southern Swimming Club on the island.

“Living here can be a bit difficult because when you go to galas everyone is in their little group of friends. But they have accepted me and I’m beginning to make friends with those on the squad.”

Niamh will meet up with the squad at the end of the month for a team building day where she will also get her official Commonwealth Games kit, something else she is looking forward to.

“When I get the kit, that will make it all feel real,” said Niamh who attends Cannon Slade School in Bolton.

“When I first got selected, I really didn’t know how I felt. I just couldn’t take it in, I think I must have been in shock because it didn’t feel real.” Well, it certainly is real and Niamh will be standing on the starting blocks on the opening day. And she is looking forward to being the youngest on the team.

“It kind of feels good being the youngest in the team because there is no pressure on me,” she said. “People aren’t expecting me to do well or to win medals.

“It will be just a case of going there and trying to do my best.”

But the competitor in her means she has set herself goals and her aim is to try and get in to the semi finals of her two favourite events, the 200m individual medley and the 100m breaststroke.

Niamh would do well to pretend she is just at another training session – one of eight she does a week – either at Accrington Academy, QEGS or Manchester Aquatic Centre where Pioneer 79 train.

“There are a few of us at the same level so we push each other all the time,” said Niamh. “If it wasn’t for the girls who are at training then I probably would not be where I am today because when I was younger I would not have had them to push me.”

Help has also come financially from TP Properties in Blackburn while Lloyd’s Charity Trust in Darwen have also donated to her training programme.

It was in her home town that Niamh first started to swim when she was just three years old at a parent and toddler group at Darwen Leisure Centre. She then joined Swimwise before teaming up with Pioneer eight years ago.

Learning to swim is an achievement in itself, a feat any grandparent would be proud of. Now May and Nick, Niamh’s Nana and Grandad will be the proudest people on the Isle of Man next month.

“When I found out, the first thing I did was to ring and tell them,” she said. “They said they were really proud because it is not every day someone has a daughter and granddaughter who gave represent their country.”

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