Danielle Hill’s Olympic dream is on hold

Q&A: Gillian Anderson chats to the fastest female swimmer in Ireland, 20-year old Danielle Hill

Friday, 3rd April 2020, 9:52 am
Updated Friday, 3rd April 2020, 12:57 pm
Danielle Hill of Larne SC Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

When did you start swimming?

I first started swimming when I was 6-years old, however, I didn’t start competitively swimming until I was around 9 when I swam for my primary school.

The reason behind it is because my older sister Louise was involved in swimming and my mum (Caroline) cannot swim, at all - she’s petrified! If ever we were on holiday she always feared us falling, slipping or whatever and ending up in the pool and her not being able to do anything to help us, so she had us enrolled in our local pool, which at the time was the old Grove baths, with Alliance ASC.

Danielle Hill celebrates winning her100m Freestyle ‘A’ Final at the 2019 Irish National Short Course Championships Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

What do you love most about swimming?

To be honest, it’s very rare that you “love” swimming but it has become a part of my life, it’s who I am and honestly, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today without it.

It has given my life structure and it was the best realease for me as an energetic kid.

The feeling when you finish a really tough set, surrounded by all your teammates is something I can’t quite explain, but it is probably one of the main reasons I love swimming.

It pushes me as person to be the best version of myself, but also challenges me physically and the competitive edge is a feeling only athletes would understand - it really is something else.

I guess another reason is the places I’ve been with swimming and the opportunities I’ve had from it. I’ve travelled the world and met some incredible people because of that, and it’s something I’ll be eternally grateful for. So, for me the love of the sport comes from the the way it makes me feel on a daily basis.

Do you study or work?

I am currently studying Sports and Exercise Sciences in Ulster University Jordanstown. However, with it being the Olympic year I opted to split my year in half and only complete the first semester from September to December, and complete the second semester this coming year.

I do also work for Peter Hill Swimming which is a swimming school for young people to learn how to swim. I work 9.5hours a week in the evenings of Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and a Saturday morning.

How often do you train?

I train 16 hours a week in the pool, alongside 4.5 hours in the gym, and an hour of Pilates throughout the week.

In the pool I train every day, with each session running for two hours- Monday to Friday from 6am until 8am; Wednesdays 4:30 to 6:30pm, Saturdays 6 to 8am and Sundays 7:30 to 9:30am. I then gym a Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:30am to 12, with Pilates after the Friday session and on a Tuesday morning.

You have been on fire this year, smashing records and on course for Olympic qualification at the Irish Olympic trials when it was cancelled due to the coronavirus situation - how did you feel when you first heard that?

It has been a good start to the year, and as for the records, they’re a result of my coach Peter (Hill) and my hard work.

Finding out about the cancellation of trials was very unexpected, we were probably one of the first nations to make the very difficult decision, and I was actually on my way to work and was in total shock really.

I knew the virus outbreak wasn’t getting any better and the difficult thing to see at the time was up North the virus wasn’t causing as much disturbance as down South.

So, for them they were in a ‘lockdown’ scenario and clubs didn’t have their gyms or pools available for them so I think that’s where the decision came from. It made much more more sense to me when we went into a ‘lockdown’ situation too and pool time became much harder to get, Obviously now the whole of the UK and Ireland are in lockdown so it was 100% the right decision for the health of the athletes, coaches, officials and spectators involved but at the time was a hard thing to take.

It must have been such a blow considering you had already battled back from serious injury to regain top form?

Yeah, the injury took place at Irish Nationals in 2018, and earlier that year I competed at Commonwealth Games walking away with incredible swims for both myself and the team. After that I really knuckled down on my nutrition with the help from Julianne Larkin, and my gym coach had changed to Ryan Keating, and everything was, as much as I hate change, looking really positive. At the games I did, however, miss my selection time for European Championships, which is why I think the change came at the right time. However, we continued to put things together, changed a few things with the diet, my