Lisburn swimmer Bethany Carson is back in the gold routine
It was a cold Christmas for Bethany Carson last year, her Commonwealth Games dream in tatters - but the Lisburn woman has put that pain behind her in emphatic fashion.
Carson, who is based at the NAC in Dublin, enjoyed a perfect weekend at the Irish short course championships in Lagan Valley Leisureplex, winning all five events she entered - the 200m freestyle, 100m free, 100m butterfly, 100m individual medley and 200m individual medley.
This time last year the 23-year-old found herself in plaster after a fall down stairs led to a broken ankle and the end of her chance to make it back-to-back Commonwealth Games in a Northern Ireland cap.
Now Carson is looking ahead to 2015 with renewed hope and expectation, a year in which she will be targeting qualification times for the World championships and Rio 2016.
"This is a massive step forward, because last year was a nightmare," said Carson, whose brother Luke made it to the Games in Glasgow despite his own horror injury.
"It was so tough to miss out on the Commonwealth Games because it's something that you are thinking about for four years - it was such a special occasion four years ago because I was there with my brother and then this time he had a much worse injury than me but he managed to go to Glasgow... I was heartbroken that I couldn't go.
"But it made me come back a lot quicker because I was trying to qualify for the Commonwealths even though it was a long shot and that motivated me.
"It was hard coming back, when I got back into the pool the ankle was still an issue because it was affecting my balance and getting power off the walls and my balance in the water as well.
"Now I've finished off a really bad year on a real high with five Irish titles. I was very pleased with the 200m free final, it was slightly slower than my PB but that time is a brilliant PB. I think with a couple more months I can get new PBs."
Carson will enjoy some time at home over Christmas before heading back to Dublin, where she has been working more closely with Swim Ireland's High Performance Director Peter Banks.
"I'll enjoy my Christmas dinner, I think I've earned it after five golds - and anyway, you can't deny a swimmer their Christmas dinner!" added Carson.
"I'll have a couple of days off and then get back into training and some serious work ahead of the Dave McCullagh meet in Bangor.
"Peter Banks has been working with us a lot more closely since September when they organised a Rio 2016 squad, which I'm a part of.
"I have learned a lot from Peter, it seems strange at 23 to be saying it but I've learned more in the last few months than I have for a long time - little technical things that make a big difference.
"I'm looking forward to the Dave McCullagh long course meet, I'll have a chance to try out my new strategies but that's good because I love working on new things.
"I feel that I am really getting back to my best."