Glasgow 2014: Para-swimmer Tom Hamer ready for busy summer

By Elizabeth HudsonBBC Sport
Tom Hamer

While the rest of his schoolmates will be enjoying their summer holidays, Burnley-based swimmer Tom Hamer will be training hard and dreaming of gold medals.

Having only burst onto the Paralympic swimming scene last year, the 15-year-old from Rawtenstall in Lancashire has secured a spot on the England team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Hamer, who swims in the S14 category for athletes with learning disabilities, will then represent Great Britain at the IPC European Championships in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, which run from 4-10 August.

"I'm not really surprised with how well I have done this year," he told BBC Sport. "I knew I could do it because of how hard I've trained and it is great when all of the hard work pays off. But there is definitely more in the tank.

"I'm well excited about the competitions this summer. It's better than going on holidays and a great chance to represent my country.

"It will be good to compete at the Commonwealths and have the races on television. I have watched a bit of the Paralympics on television and it is what I wanted to do."

The talented teen started swimming when he was three and progressed through the Burnley Aquatics club to the Burnley Bobcats set-up for competitive swimmers.

He now combines his training between his home club and the National Performance Centre in Manchester, as well as his studies at Alder Grange Community School.

The Glasgow programme features six Para-swimming events and Hamer will be one of three English swimmers in action, along with Steph Slater (S8 100m freestyle) and Ollie Hynd (S8 200m Individual Medley).

In his event on Saturday, 26 July, Hamer will face fellow teenager Jack Thomas, who will be representing Wales, and Scotland's Craig Rodgie, as well as a strong contingent from Australia and Canada.

Glasgow's Tollcross International Swimming Centre pool holds few fears for him, though, after he set a new long course personal best of two minutes 1.91 seconds there to both meet the qualifying time for the Games and secure his place at the Europeans.

"When I saw the time I was so pleased with it. It was one of the best swims I have ever done," Hamer said.

"Last year I swam at the Nationals but competing at the British International recently was my first time to compete internationally and was good experience for me, especially to compete against the likes of Paralympic great Sascha Kindred."

Before concentrating on the pool, Hamer did a lot of open water swimming and in 2012 won silver in the national age-group championships for 13-year-olds and two years earlier was also part of a Bobcats relay team which swam across the English Channel for charity.

His club coach Mike Robinson, who was also part of the Channel swim, saw Hamer's talent and realised he could potentially qualify for Paralympic competition.

"The main thing I have to deal with, with Tom since I started working with him four years ago, is the level of repetition and his short-term memory," he explained.

"You have to tell him things a number of times and sometimes he will pick it up but other times he just forgets or we have to go over things that we worked on some time previously."

As well as his swimming work, Hamer - hoping to study art and graphics at A-level - admits finding time for everything can be a struggle.

"It can be difficult to combine school and training and sometimes after a tough training session when I would rather be at home resting, I have to go to school which is difficult," he said.

"But there are a few others on the GB team in the same situation.

"My swimming friends are envious about what I will be doing this summer but my school friends aren't really bothered."

After Glasgow, Hamer will travel to the Netherlands as part of the 31-strong GB team alongside the likes of Paralympic champions Ellie Simmonds, Jonathan Fox, Josef Craig and Jessica-Jane Applegate.

Robinson believes Hamer has the potential to take the first step to emulating his illustrious team-mates.

"He is very talented but he works very hard every session and he is getting the rewards now," he said. "His attention is greater to swimming than to other things and as long as he is happy and enjoys it, he will get whatever he wants.

"He knows what he wants to do and I will support him from there. Medals are definitely within his grasp, given the way he has progressed over the last 12 months."

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