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Grounded Reid girls making big waves

By David Kelly

Young, gifted and modest isn't a bad combination of characteristics and sisters Emma and Rebecca Reid carry them with ease.

The two Ards Swimming Club starlets are both taking to the European stage within the next six weeks, starting with Emma at the European Games in Baku and then next month Rebecca is part of the Irish squad at the European Youth Olympics in Tiblisi.

Emma has been leading the way when it comes to success in the pool, having competed in the European Youth Olympics in 2013 and bagging Ulster and Irish junior records, while Rebecca caught the eye at last year's Canadian Age Group championships when she landed two golds and two silvers.

While Emma's main focus for the past month has been her GSCE exams, she can now look ahead to the European Games, which this year are being used as equivalent of the annual European junior championships, which boasts the cream of the continent. It's a far cry from when Emma was first trying on a pair of goggles.

"I actually had a fear of swimming. My granny, Emily Adair, said that I should go and do swimming lessons so I had a one-to-one teacher and some group work for a year and then went to Bangor when I was about six and kept going," said the 16-year-old.

"When I was 10 or 11 I started to see I was quite good and I would say that I am driven by the success. My mum says I am hard on myself... I am very competitive.

"The discipline of the sport is tough, you have to be in the pool very early and do some training after school as well as school work and this is my GSCE year so it has been tough but it's nice to get in and swim and switch off for a while."

Having competed at the European juniors last year, Emma believes she will be much more relaxed about taking on Europe's best.

"Last year it was a bit nerve wracking because you were standing there thinking you are up against the best in Europe and you could be up against potential Olympic gold medallists, the standard is that high.

"But it was a great experience and my first race was probably the best, the 200m butterfly. This year I am doing the 200m, 100m and 50m fly.

"I want to make a semi or a final. Last year I was first reserve for the semi-finals in the 200m butterfly so that was good for my first year."

When her own European adventure is completed, she will then be concentrating on helping 13-year-old sister Rebecca prepare for her summer challenge.

"I was at the European Youth Olympics two years ago and that was a great experience and although it was similar the European juniors is a step up. It's good that I will be able to tell Rebecca what to expect.

"We talk about swimming a lot over the dinner table but Friday nights and Saturday nights are movie nights and we tell each other no swimming talk."

Rebecca admits that watching her big sister rise up the Irish junior ladder has been an inspiration - including motivating her to get out of bed for early morning training with Ards coaches Nelson Lindsay and Davy Johnston.

"It was very inspirational for me to watch Emma going to big events... this will be the biggest stage I've been on," said Rebecca who will compete in the 200m and 400m individual medley.

"The Canadian Age Group championships last year was very good for me, particularly because I saw the difference between those swimmers and me when it came to the under water work so when I came back I told my coach all about it and I realised that I had to work a lot harder, particularly on my turns.

"You could see the difference particularly with the boys - some of the 14-year-olds were going quicker than some of the senior swimmers here.

"Emma and I talk about swimming a lot, it's great for me to have her to talk to and to have each other in training because we know our levels and how we need to be pushed... and in the mornings she inspires me to get up because I'll hear her getting up so then I know I have to - I like my bed a lot so it's good she gets up first!"

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