Medal aspirations for Larne’s elite swimmers at Birmingham Games

Reporter Russell Keers finds out how an east Antrim-based swimming club has been nurturing talent over the past five decades and its current elite swimmers have eyes on silverware at next year’s Commonwealth Games in England.

With a proud history of producing Olympians and Commonwealth Games participants, Larne Swimming Club has been part of the local community for over 50 years.

Formed in 1969 as Larne Amateur Swimming Club, the east Antrim organisation changed its name to Larne Juniors before more recently renmaing as Larne Swimming Club.

The club has been based out of Larne Leisure Centre for its entire existence and although it operates sessions in Belfast Royal Academy and Bangor, it is Larne that the club calls home.

A group of the club's junior swimmers at their first meet back after Covid restrictions eased.

Detailing the club’s pedigree, head coach Peter Hill explained: “We compete in Irish nationals as well as Ulster championships. We also have younger members contesting multiple development meets at a regional level.

“We are fortunate enough to have several high profile members.

“Danielle Hill holds eight Irish senior records and is the fastest female in Irish history.

“She was a finalist at the Commonwealth Games and was the only Northern Irish female to qualify for this year’s rearranged 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Conor Ferguson and Danielle Hill.

“Conor Ferguson holds two Irish senior records and is a European finalist and a Commonwealth Games finalist.

“Meanwhile, Daniel Wiffen holds four Irish senior records and was the second Larne athlete to compete in Tokyo.”

Swim Ireland’s National Programme for identified swimming athletes was recently announced for the 2021-2022 season with Conor and Danielle included in the ‘performance’ cohort (those with a primary focus on Paris 2024).

Mr Hill added: “We are the only club programme in Ireland to have Olympic athletes in our programme. We have a senior programme that is building towards multiple representations at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

“We aspire to have multiple finalists at next year’s Commonwealth Games and we are working towards challenging for medals, in addition to raising the bar in Irish nationals once again.”

As with the majority of other sporting bodies across Northern Ireland, the Coronavirus pandemic had a negative impact on Larne Swimming Club’s activities over the last year and a half.

Peter stated: “The Covid-19 pandemic closed our club for 18 months as we were limited by the ability of the centre to open.

“We are only now able to get our lessons back up and running. Fortunately, we have a number of elite athletes who were able to continue to training, albeit in a very restricted way.”

The Tower Road-based organisation currently has a membership of approximately 100 members and Peter is keen to welcome new members.

He said: “As a club we are a single team, but we compete in the Under-12 Aquasprint League and the more senior Provincial Towns League as well as in numerous open meets throughout the year.

“With our learn to swim, we cater for everyone from aged four until they decide to stop. At the minute we have a number of athletes competing into their mid 20s.

“New members are always welcome and they can contact us through our website to arrange a trial. We have sessions every day.”

To keep up to date with the club’s activiites, check out @LarneSwimCLub on Twitter, Teamlarne on Instagram, or visit the Larne Swimming Club Facebook page.

We want to hear from sports clubs interested in being featured in this new series. Get in touch with Russell Keers - email [email protected]

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