Dreaming of reaching the Olympic Games with Isabel Blackhurst

Isabel Blackhurst

Isabel Blackhurst with the 100m freestyle trophy, which she won at the County Championships just before lockdown early last year. - Credit: David Blackhurst

Isabel Blackhurst’s first memory of the Olympic Games was during London 2012 as she watched the excitement unfold before her eyes.

Despite being only four-years-old, it would be the start of her lifelong dream to represent Great Britain at the Olympics.

After learning to swim with Weston Swimming Club (WSMSC) at six-years-old, Isabel moved up from Learn to Swim to the development squad three years later.

Being old enough and part of the full squad meant Isabel could compete in official swimming galas at Hutton Moor and other local pools.

At her first competitive gala, Isabel hadn't learned to dive, but despite being at a disadvantage, she won and has since gone on to compete at county and regional levels – and at every meet has proven herself as a medal contender in all events.

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At the last county competition before lockdown Isabel brought home 11 gold medals from 13 races, also becoming the 15 & under overall junior champion.

"It means a lot to me because it is practically my whole life, I literally swim every evening and it is everything to me," said Isabel.

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"I have made a lot of new friends through it too, which is amazing. I don't just have my group of school friends; I have my group of swimming friends.

"It has given me a lot of opportunities I guess that lots of people weren't able to have, I got to travel around the country and see new places and it is really good."

Back in 2019, when just 12-years-old, Isabel qualified for the 50m backstroke at the English National Summer Championships in Sheffield.

Being able to compete at a National level is a massive achievement for any swimmer and doing so at 12 is quite rare.

And in early 2020, just before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Isabel swam a 100m freestyle race in 59.76, to rank her number one in the UK for her age group.

More importantly it was below the qualification time to allow Isabel to go to the Olympic trials for Tokyo 2020.

Isabel Blackhurst and her family on holiday

Isabel Blackhurst and her family on holiday just before lockdown at Disneyland Florida. - Credit: David Blackhurst

"I was pretty shocked, I didn't realise because it was supposed to be last year and I would have been too young to make it but because it moved onto this year, I was now old enough and I was pretty shocked to find out that I did actually make the time," added Isabel.

Dad David said: "Izzy had always talked about making the Olympics and going to the Olympics. A lot of children talk that way but for Isabel to have achieved a trial was pretty awesome and then to see her disappointment, with everything else that has happened over the course of the last year as well, was very difficult.”

The trials have been pushed back to this month but with restrictions still in place.

British Swimming have decided that only the top elite athletes are likely to be invited to attend this summer’s Olympics.

"That's the biggest disappointment of what we have had here with the Olympic trials, it's that Isabel is going to miss that stepping stone but I don't think it will take away any lack of determination from Isabel to try and make the next trials,” added David.

"Maybe even make it for more than one event and as parents we will be there supporting her through the whole thing. I said to Isabel right from the start when she started swimming, we will carry on getting up early, carry on taking her as long as she enjoys doing it.

"There is no pressure from us, we are just proud of her doing the hard work she is doing and will support her in that."

But the family fully support the decision made by British Swimming and have set their sights on making the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

"I am going to use the determination I got from making it to the Olympic trials to really push myself to get there and do as best as I can," said Isabel.

"It is always what I wanted to do, just to have made it makes me excited to see where I can go in the future."

David added: "Isabel will be in a stronger position being 16 then to actually maybe even competing and being in the Olympics, who knows where you might be in three years.

"I am awesomely proud; you can't describe those words. It's very difficult because there is a balance being proud and not putting the weight on the child as well. I don't want to put pressure on Isabel to feel like she has to make the Olympics because things change, people change, and they want to do better things and it's a fine balance.

"But I am awesomely proud of what Isabel has done and the hard work she has put in. I don't know many people that want to train as hard to do anything than Isabel does with her swimming. It does show if you put in hard work, you can go and achieve these great things."

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