Top Northern Ireland stars aiming to hit next level after Dame Mary awards
A top young swimmer and promising boxer have been identified as potential stars of the future with £2,000 awards to help them to the next level in their sporting development as part of the Mary Peters Trust 'Make it Happen' awards, backed by Bluefin Sport Insurance.
Champion swimmer Danielle Hill (17), from Belfast, and Derry-based boxer Brett McGinty (18), a Commonwealth Youth Games silver medallist, were selected, shortlisted and interviewed by an awards panel hand-picked by Trust figurehead Dame Mary Peters in her continuing quest to aid the development of young sportsmen and women, stretching back to her 1972 Olympic gold medal in the pentathlon in Munich.
Like many thousands who have been assisted by the Trust over the past 45 years, Danielle's award will be used for very important warm weather training which also means access to additional specialist European coaches.
Danielle's dad, Davy, said: "The warm weather training is a tough week, it's breakfast then two and a half hours of pool training, then lunch and again back in the water for another two and a half hours with additional time for stretching and three one-hour strength and conditioning sessions.
"On the one afternoon off, even though they were exhausted, they all decided to go to a water park! Danielle is just so comfortable in water.
"Our daily routine is up at 4.30am every day except on a Sunday when we get a lie in until 5.45am to allow for a pool session. This is followed by 20 minutes of stretching and breakfast before school, where she has also just been made a prefect, too.
"This comes to a total of up to 22 and a half hours of pool sessions per week plus three hours of strength and conditioning sessions. Add to this the travelling to and from competitions and training camps at weekends and it can be a punishing routine for all of us.
"But it's been worth it. Danielle was selected to represent Northern Ireland at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games at the age of 14 and made it to the semi-finals twice. Danielle holds two Irish senior records at 50m Freestyle and 50m Backstroke.
"In three weeks' time watch this space as she intends to break both Irish records again. This coming season she will travel to Scotland and Eindhoven, Holland to train with different experienced coaches so that she can qualify for the World Long Course Championships in Budapest and hopefully again qualify for the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Australia 2018."
Boxer Brett, the second recipient, has already enjoyed captaincy experience at the Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa, where he won a silver medal.
Eugene O'Kane, his coach, said: "Brett is a very level headed young man who is totally dedicated to the sport and I have a lot of respect for him. At the recent European Youth Championships in Russia, he narrowly lost 2-1 in the quarter-finals.
"At a time when boxers are turning to the professional ranks at a very young age, this award will help Brett achieve his targets of Ulster and Irish Elite titles, Commonwealth Games gold in the Gold Coast and qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.
"Brett has just competed for Team Ireland at the AIBA World Youth Championships in St Petersburg. He is a European Schoolboy bronze medallist and has won 12 Ulster and eight Irish titles.
"This money will fund his Elite training camps in Dublin and further afield. It will fund European competitions which will help him reach his goals. Without this money, and no other funding from any other source, his club were his only support and it was fast running dry. He didn't see how he could continue so this is a real lifeline for his sport."
Dame Mary, who presented the awards, said: "These two are both very talented athletes and I am so pleased to see their hard work and dedication rewarded, I listen to their training regimes and I'm exhausted before they even get to the end.
"We support them as much as we can but costs keep going up and as they get better they need to compete further afield in order to develop. That's why the Trust keeps going and that's what drives me."
Alyn Spratt, insurance company Bluefin's NI Head of Sport, added: "I am a great admirer of Dame Mary and she works tirelessly to support young athletes. Bluefin Sport are pleased to help support these two talented athletes with this award. It will help them along their road to success and I look forward to watching them grow and develop."