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Swimmer vows to reboot Olympic dream following lockdown

Danielle Hill had been just a fraction off the qualifying time for Tokyo before the pandemic.

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Danielle Hill Irish International swimmer and Olympic hopeful trains at her family home in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Danielle Hill Irish International swimmer and Olympic hopeful trains at her family home in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Danielle Hill Irish International swimmer and Olympic hopeful trains at her family home in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland. (Liam McBurney/PA)

A Co Antrim swimmer has vowed to reboot her Olympic dream following lockdown.

Danielle Hill had been just a fraction off the qualifying time for the Tokyo games with a carefully tailored training plan designed to secure her place before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

But instead she was forced to suspend that dream as social-distancing measures left her out of the pool for months.

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Danielle Hill Irish International swimmer and Olympic hopeful training at a friends swimming pool in Ballynure, Northern Ireland. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Danielle Hill Irish International swimmer and Olympic hopeful training at a friends swimming pool in Ballynure, Northern Ireland. (Liam McBurney/PA)

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Danielle Hill Irish International swimmer and Olympic hopeful training at a friends swimming pool in Ballynure, Northern Ireland. (Liam McBurney/PA)

She recently returned to limited training times at the pool at Belfast Royal Academy, and says her and her coach will simply cut and paste their plan to next year aiming for the postponed Olympics.

And she hopes to gain more pool time this week following the recent announcement by the Northern Ireland Executive that elite athletes will be able to resume training indoors from Monday.

Danielle has spent lock down working out in her back garden and even venturing into Lough Neagh with triathlete friends in a bid to maintain her fitness.

No sport is bigger than a worldwide pandemicDanielle Hill

“This year, the Olympics was always the goal and I was only 0.65 away from the time,” she told the PA news agency.

“My coach Peter and I were 110% certain that the Olympic qualifiers was going to be something special for both of us. It’s nice that we can copy and paste the plan but it was a little but annoying that it had worked but then we couldn’t show everyone what we had been working towards.

“I don’t mind repeating it all, some people might find that boring but I know it’s going to work.

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Danielle Hill Irish International swimmer and Olympic hopeful trains at her family home in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Danielle Hill Irish International swimmer and Olympic hopeful trains at her family home in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland. (Liam McBurney/PA)

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Danielle Hill Irish International swimmer and Olympic hopeful trains at her family home in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland. (Liam McBurney/PA)

“Our season will start back in August and hopefully by that stage the new normal will be around.”

Despite the frustrations, Danielle said she thinks Northern Ireland have done lockdown “the right way”, adding: “no sport is bigger than a worldwide pandemic”.

Her usual swimming bases include Belfast Royal Academy (BRA), Larne Leisure Centre and the 50m pool at Bangor Aurora.

“Once lock down was eased and up to ten were allowed to gather we were able to come to an arrangement to use the BRA pool for an hour,” she said.

“We had two-and-a-half months off so an hour was probably enough for that first week fitness wise and getting a feel for the water again.”

With swimming pools in the Irish Republic reopening weeks ago, Danielle was able to use the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin, but said as a non funded athlete she could not afford to travel there every day.

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Danielle Hill Irish International swimmer and Olympic hopeful training at a friends swimming pool in Ballynure, Northern Ireland. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Danielle Hill Irish International swimmer and Olympic hopeful training at a friends swimming pool in Ballynure, Northern Ireland. (Liam McBurney/PA)

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Danielle Hill Irish International swimmer and Olympic hopeful training at a friends swimming pool in Ballynure, Northern Ireland. (Liam McBurney/PA)

She compared the experience to when she suffered a recent elbow injury two years ago and felt like she had had to learn to swim all over again.

“Whenever I got back into the water then, I had to learn how to swim again because I couldn’t even straighten my arm at one stage, so I count myself very lucky this time I can just get in and swim,” she said.

“But it felt weird, I felt like a eel swimming through the water, there was no feeling there at all. After about 1,000 metres it became a little more normal.”

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