East Lancashire swimmer, Tom Hamer, will be going for gold tonight at the Commonwealth Games being held in Birmingham.

Para-athlete Tom, from Rawtenstall, said the Games will “always have a place in his heart” and he wants to enjoy every second of the competition.

He is set to compete in the men’s 200m Freestyle S14 final at 7.22pm this evening, and is hoping to retain the gold medal he won on the Gold Coast in 2018.

Tom and fellow team England swimmers, Reece Dunn and Jordan Catchpole will be competing against Australian and Welsh athletes for a medal.

The 23-year-old made history as the first S14 swimmer to represent the country at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow eight years ago.

Tom, on his international para-swimming debut, took silver in the S14 200m Freestyle, aged just 15, before topping the podium on the Gold Coast four years later, winning gold in a world record time of 1.55.88.

He competes in the S14 class which is for athletes with "intellectual disabilities"; in an interview with the Lancashire Telegraph in 2014, Tom said he struggles with reading and spelling.

Now in Birmingham for his third Commonwealth Games, Tom reflected on how the multi-sport event was the first step in his illustrious career.

Lancashire Telegraph: Tom HamerTom Hamer

He said: "The Commonwealth Games will always be close in my heart because that was my international debut in 2014.

"That was the first time I stepped onto a world stage so looking back to that young 15-year-old kid, running around the village and then growing up - and going in 2018 - as well on the Gold Coast, the Commonwealth Games is my Games.

"I keep thinking, when I was 15 and on the team, there were so many athletes saying: 'this is my second one and my third one or fourth one' - some of those guys might not be around now.

"And I'm now that person and I'm just really excited; it's my Games, it started there for me.

Tom said he is a “proper Northern lad” who is “proud to represent Team England”.

He said: “I've done it three times now and the more I've done it the more I enjoy it."

Former Alder Grange pupil Tom learnt to swim in a 22.5m long pool in his hometown of Rawtenstall before joining Burnley Aquatics aged 10, and then going on to compete internationally.

He claimed silver in the S14 200m Freestyle and SM14 200m Individual Medley at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, but suffered heartbreak in Tokyo as he picked up a back injury away from the pool and was unable to compete.

A stout Englishman, Tom takes pride in representing his country and uses his love of the countryside as a form of escapism away from competition.

He said: "We're a very traditional household and it's nice to come home to a Sunday roast.” 

"There's no better feeling when I've travelled into Manchester to swim, then come home and get to my farm track and it's the most beautiful scenery and you just escape and that's what I love.

"Swimming is such a demanding sport that you have four hours a day staring at the bottom on the pool, and you sometimes want to escape from that and this farm is my escape.

“To me, these next two years, I'm not trying to treat it as getting on that podium, that will happen and take care of itself.

"For me it's all about getting my head right and after being on that scene for eight years, I've always done it because I enjoyed it.

“I've never seen it as a job and I'm trying to get back into that mindset of being young Tom again and enjoying it.

“So at the Commonwealth Games, I'm just going to try and be that little kid again in my head."

You can watch coverage of the Commonwealth Games on the BBC.