The Larne Swimming Club member earned her first Olympic Consideration Time at the Swim Ireland Performance Meet last month to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.
For more on Danielle’s qualification, read here
Speaking to the Times, the 22-year-old from Carnmoney said that the whole experience “still does not feel real.”
Ireland’s fastest ever female swimmer, who showed raw emotion when it was announced that she had qualified for the games, stated: “It still hasn’t quite clicked that I’m an Olympian. It doesn’t feel real. I am so honoured and excited to be able to represent my country at the very top level of my sport.
“It makes all the sacrifices and years of hard work worth it, because for a split second when I hit the wall and heard ‘60.18, she’s going, it’s the FINA A time’ I felt numb, there was just a big rush of relief and then the tears began.
“Achieving a FINA A time is an incredible achievement for any swimmer or to qualify for the games for any athlete is remarkable, but my coach (Peter Hill) and I have always said our proudest achievement is how far we have moved Irish swimming forward and our main goal will always be to see how far we can continue to push the boundaries of Irish swimming.”
The games had been due to be held in Tokyo last year, but due to the Coronavirus pandemic they were postponed until this summer. Although this was a frustrating period for Danielle, she used the extra time to her advantage to prepare for the qualifying events.
She explained: “The pandemic was, and continues to be, the most stressful and frustrating time. I am so thankful to swimming that it was almost my ‘escape’ or ‘way out’ of reality, and although during lockdown I wasn’t able to swim, I continued training in my garden with equipment given to me by Sports Institute Northern Ireland (SINI) and my gym coach Ryan Keating kept us all motivated with challenges and workouts to do.
“Our competitions were also cancelled and postponed which has meant a lack of race opportunity, however, through small race series and local time trials, Swim Ulster and Swim Ireland provided us with race opportunities which most definitely helped in the build-up to trials.
“As for the games being a year late, I was at first devastated because felt I was in the best shape for trials in 2020, but I soon realised it was a positive and gave me, only 20 years old at the time, an extra year to get stronger and faster.
“I am so happy that they are going ahead, and that in such an uncertain year the team around me from my teammates at Larne SC right through to my coach, physio (Kerry Kirk SINI) and nutritionist (Julianne Larkin) we have managed to keep on task and achieve the goals we set out at the beginning of the season.”
The former Belfast Model School for Girls student, who has represented Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games, is urging aspiring athletes from across the province to believe in their ability.
Danielle said: “Don’t forget to look back. If there’s one message I’d love to tell my younger self it’s that it’s okay to stop, breathe, look back at everything you’ve achieved big or small, breathe again and then keep going.
“You have to remember that the position you’re in today may have been the position you had wished for six months ago. Look for the small successes and keep going.
“All it takes is for one performance to change your life as it has mine. Do the work, turn up and believe in your ability.”
With just over a fortnight to go until the rearranged games commence in Japan, Danielle wishes to thank the local community for backing her.
She added: “The support I receive on a daily basis is incredible, but the support I’ve received now, during both Olympic trials, is the reason I love representing my country at any level.
“It’s amazing because even when you don’t believe in yourself, there is always someone out there telling you different, and one of my biggest motivators is the supporters I have.
“I guess all I can say is thank you, but hopefully representing Ireland in Tokyo in a few weeks I can show them an even bigger thank you with my performances and do our country proud.”
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