Golden teen star Conor up with best in world
Conor Ferguson's Commonwealth Games hopes were shattered earlier this year through injury but that hasn't stopped him having another golden summer.
This time last year the 14-year-old was preparing to become the first person from Northern Ireland to win three gold medals at the British Age Group championships and now in Canada he has struck gold again with a truly world class performance.
Ferguson, a member of the Larne club, won the under-15 200m backstroke at the Canadian Age Group championships in Winnipeg in a new Ulster senior record time of 2:05.25, which took him into the top five times by a 14-year-old in the history of the sport.
As well as the Ulster senior record, which had stood for over 20 years, Ferguson's time was also a new Irish junior record. He had initially set a new Ulster senior record in the heats, clocking 2:05.37.
With half-a-dozen more events still to come for Ferguson, it looks like a very promising few days for the young man who was unable to shoot for a Games place after breaking his ankle just before the Irish championships earlier this year – the final meet for Games qualification times.
Dad Peter admits that it was a tough time for the ambitious young man but Larne coach Peter Hill got him back on course and once again the hard work is clearly paying off.
Peter said: "Conor was pretty down when he couldn't go to the Commonwealth Games but after a couple of weeks he got himself going again and I have to give a lot of credit to his coach Peter Hill. He really got his mind back on swimming and reminded him that the Games were always going to be a bonus, the main focus had always been on the Canadian Age Groups.
"Peter has done a great job with Conor. He has got him focusing a lot more on a smoother stroke and it's paying off.
"To get those times for the 200m backstroke is just incredible and he still has the 100m and 50m backstroke to come as well as the individual medley.
"He won gold at the Irish Age Groups before going out and he has gone onto another level so it's very encouraging for the UK Sainsbury School Games next month and, looking further ahead, to the European Youth Olympics and European junior championships next year."
The teenager has been swimming since the age of five but it was as a nine-year-old that he and dad Peter caught a glimpse of his potential.
Peter added: "When he was nine he went across to Cardiff for a Development gala and got swimmer of the meet and that's when he started to feel the sport was really for him.
"At Larne he has trained regularly with Danielle Hill who is at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and together they have worked really well. They pushed each other on and it has been good for both.
"Conor's dream is to make it to the Olympics, just like any young swimmer but he knows – and we keep reminding him – that it is going to take an awful lot of hard work and sacrifice."
It seems the teenager is certainly on the right track with more gold on the agenda before the summer is out.