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Conor Ferguson is out to rule the world of swimming

By David Kelly

Conor Ferguson is a young man on a mission - to rule the world of swimming.

The 16-year-old is undoubtedly a special talent and his exploits in the summer demonstrated why he feels that one day he can stand on top of the podium at the Olympic Games.

Conor, who swims for Larne, scooped gold in the 100m backstroke at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa as well as silver in the 100m and 50m, having also picked up two silvers at the European Youth Olympics.

Arguably, he even more impressively, he currently stands as the third fastest 16-year-old backstroker in the world - on the back of his exploits at the World juniors when he placed 11th, 12th and 13th in the backstroke events.

"To be the third fastest in the world at the moment is really special, it shows me where I am and what I need to do to get to where I want to be and that is to be the number one swimmer in the world, to be the fastest. I know that is not going to be easy but I believe that I can get there," said Conor, a pupil at BRA.

"At the World championships in Singapore I could see what the other guys were like and I know that I need to improve my starts because on top of the water I am faster than the other guys my age so that's an obvious thing to work on.

"The top two 1999 guys were on the podium in Singapore ... the Spanish guy who beat me twice at he European Youth Olympics when I won my silver medals was one of them.

"Winning the silvers was great but being on top of the podium at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa was really something. To hear Danny Boy being played was just unreal. It was my first international gold medal and that was great and I want that feeling again."

Rio next summer is realistically off the radar for Conor but he has no doubt where he wants to be in 2020.

"I want to be on the podium at least in 2020 and then in 2024 I want that gold. Nobody knows what can happen in the years in between but those are my targets.

"Next summer I have the European juniors. I'll be competing a year young and I want to be on the podium and again I expect that the main man to beat will be the Spaniard Hugo Gonzalez."

While swimming consumes his thinking on a daily basis, Conor, like every teenager, has to give his studies due attention and this year he has to contend with his GCSE exams.

He said: "It's a matter of balancing them with the work I do in the pool and the gym. I must say the school have been very good to me, very understanding, so I have to thank our principal Mr Dickson for that. They have allowed to have periods during the day when others are doing games that I can use for study on the days that I have afternoon training.

"That is a big help because I can totally focus on training and not worry about homework because I know that I will be up the next day at 4 o'clock.

"I go to the pool for 5.40am and we do core work for 20 minutes before we do our two hours in the pool and then it's off to school - I do that five days a week and then on Saturdays and Sundays I train at the Aurora in Bangor.

"I eat about 4,000 calories a day starting with scrambled egg and toast and some cereal or some porridge and then plenty of good throughout the day at school before I go home to eat my dad Peter's cooking. My mum Patricia buys the food and he does most of the cooking!

"Every year at the start of the season I sit down with my coach Peter Hill and we discuss the goals for me - the times that I want to get to and so far we have hit those goals every year.

"We work out precisely what I need to be hitting at 50, 100 and 150, it's about learning how to race - how I will execute my race and Peter is the man. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be were I am. I am the machine and he controls me."

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