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Danielle Hill inspired to keep making golden waves by Commonwealth Games boxing team success


Big splash: Danielle Hill left the Ulster championships with a bagful of medals and now has her sights fixed on the European juniors next summer

Big splash: Danielle Hill left the Ulster championships with a bagful of medals and now has her sights fixed on the European juniors next summer

Danielle Hill

Danielle Hill

?Russell Pritchard / Presseye


Big splash: Danielle Hill left the Ulster championships with a bagful of medals and now has her sights fixed on the European juniors next summer

Danielle Hill says she has been inspired by Northern Ireland's multi-medal winning Commonwealth Games boxing team to take her swimming to another level.

The Carnmoney teenager left the Ulster championships at the Lagan Valley Leisureplex with seven senior gold medals, three silvers and one bronze medal after a weekend in which she and Larne clubmate Conor Ferguson were the two outstanding performers.

Hill, who competed for Northern Ireland at the Games in Glasgow and made three semi-finals, is now looking ahead to the Irish championships in two weeks' time - and to next summer when she is expected to compete at the European junior championships.

Having won the 200m backstroke and 800m freestyle, gold on the opening night, the 15-year-old added the 100m back, 400m free, 50m free, 400m IM and 50m back titles on Saturday and Sunday - setting new Ulster junior records for the 50m free, 26.35, 50m back, 29.61, and 200m back, 2:15.26. Hill's 50m free record was 0.15 quicker than the time set by Olympian and European junior gold medalist Sycerika McMahon in 2010.

"I'm very pleased with how the championships went. It sets me up well for the Irish championships in two weeks' time which are back at the Lagan Valley pool," said Hill, who relished every moment of her Commonwealth Games experience.

"Being at the Commonwealth Games was fantastic, it was inspirational to be around the other top athletes - to watch their routines and just how they went about things. I saw how the Team NI boxers worked and learned a lot from them," said Belfast Model student Danielle.

"I learned from them about nutrition, what to eat before and after races and also what I should be eating during the day at school - so I make sure that I have the right food every day and that is very important. I think it's very important that at a young age you are given the chance to compete at such a big event because it does inspire and drive you on and shows you that you can compete with the best.

"I believe the whole experience is going to make a big difference to my swimming and I'm looking forward to the European juniors next year in Azerbaijan and also hopefully the Commonwealth Youth Games."

Mum Caroline plays a crucial role in her success, having been there from the start when as a five-year-old she started with the Alliance club in the old Grove Centre.

"I remember when she got in and didn't like it because it was so cold and her little lips turned blue," recalled Caroline.

"She works very, very hard, she's up at 5am for training before going to school and then trains at nights as well - and her Saturday mornings are spent at Aurora in Bangor working with the Ulster squad. She has her dreams and it's our job to be their to support her as best we can.

"She sacrifices a lot of her social life and at her age that can be tough but she knows that it has to be done to achieve her goals - swimming has to be one of the toughest sports.

"I couldn't have imagined she would be where she is right now and even at the weekend we didn't expect to do so well. While she was swimming in the finals on Friday I was coming out of parents-teachers meeting and I felt like the proudest mum in the world because she doing very well academically too - I think the demands of swimming actually makes the kids very organised when it comes to school.

"So now she has the Irish championships and then hopefully the European juniors next summer."

The Recorders Trophy - for the swimmer who breaks a record by the biggest margin at the Ulster championships - went to Hill's 15-year-old clubmate Ferguson who set a new 100m backstroke time of 54.80, breaking the old senior record by 4.2% which was also an Irish junior best.

Notably, the rising star of the sport also set a new Ulster senior record for the 200m back, clocking 2:00.55 - breaking the previous best of Richard Gheel, set in 1992.

It proved to be another great weekend for the Ards club who scooped numerous titles with James Browne, Emma Reid and Bethany Firth to the fore.

RBAI student Browne set a new Ulster junior record when winning the 200m butterfly in 2:05.34 and also landed the 400m and 100m IM, while Emma Reid set a new Ulster junior record for the 50m butterfly of 28.46 and also won the 100m and 200m 'fly as well as silver in the 100m free behind clubmate Firth.

Paralympic gold medalist Firth also won the 200m free in a good time of 2:01.64 as well as the 200m IM, while she was second to Hill in the 50m back and 50m free.

Belfast Telegraph