LIMERICK swimmer Fiona Doyle has started the most exciting year of her life as she steps up her preparations for next summer Olympic Games in Brazil The 23-year-old double World University Games medallist talks to Leader Sport’s Colm Kinsella about the countdown to Rio
Was qualifying for the Olympics your number one goal for the 2015 season?
Fiona Doyle: “Yeah, absolutely. Obviously when I go and race I want to try and win some medals too, but at the end of the day, for me, it was really qualifying for the Olympics as it means in September I can focus and work around making a plan for the year and trying to do well at the Olympics as opposed to trying to qualify for the Games.
Did the World Championships come a bit quickly after the University Games?
FD: “Yeah, I think I was a bit tired after the whole emotion of qualifying for the Olympics and reaching my goals and expectations I had set out for the World University Games. The level of competition at the Worlds is very high.
“I am disappointed with how I performed, but it was a huge learning curve. Hopefully, I can learn from it and prepare better for the Olympics.
“The main thing this year is definitely going to be training and focussing on the Olympics. University (she’s studying human kinesiology and sports science) will take a back seat.
“I will be done in December officially. I am only doing three modules between now and the end of the year. It will be a light schedule with University which works out well. I won’t be too stressed with University. Once December comes I will be free as a bird and focus solely on swimming.
What are the big competitions for you between now and the Rio Olympics?
FD: “There won’t be any major competitions between September and December, but come January the big ones start. We will do a number of the high profile ones in the US. We have the European Championships in May and I will probably come back for Irish Nationals in April. We will see how that works out.
Making the qualifying time for Rio de Janeiro 12 months out must be big relief?
FD: “Absolutely. We planned it two years ago that I was going to do it a year out. Obviously, I will be hoping to do the time a number of times again before the Olympics roll around. To get it out of the way in the summer so we could plan for doing well at the Olympics come August 2016, as opposed to spending the year trying to qualify for the Olympics and chase the time. It is a great place to be.
How many hours a week are you in the pool?
FD: “We train about 18 hours in the pool a week and we lift three times a week in the weights room for about 4 1/2 hours. Then we might add in some bike and running on top of that, so it is a pretty intense programme.
Early starts in the morning?
FD: “Yeah, we have 6am work-outs and sometimes they are 7am. They are still pretty early when you consider that in the mornings we generally go 6am-8am and then to the weights room after it from 8am-9am or 9.30am and then we are into class at university. Then it is back into the pool from 2pm-4pm. It is definitely jam-packed.
This is the most exciting year ahead of your career?
FD: “Definitely. I have been trying to qualify for the Olympics since I was 12, so this is so exciting. I can’t believe that I have actually done it and I am going to the Olympics. It is mind-blowing to me.
The pool in Rio is a temporary pool, so it will really be only going up for the Olympics. It is suppose to be amazing. It has a capacity for 15,000. It is indoors. FINA, the governing body, have made sure that all events since 2009 are indoors. That is an advantage to us because I am sure it is going to be really, really hot. The Olympic Council are hosting a training camp in Brazil for two weeks before the game. We will be an hour away from the village. We will be in and around the place and will get used to the climate. I am really looking forward to it.
How much can you learn from the World Championships?
FD: “I learned a lot about myself and what I need to do as a swimmer. I need to get more comfortable in that environment. I mean I thought I was comfortable in it, but you need to make friends there, to get to know the athletes from other countries and be comfortable in that environment, so that when you get there it doesn’t seem such a big deal.
“In terms of the swimming itself, we weren’t expecting it to be as fast in the morning. The times to qualify for finals were the same as two years ago, but in order to get into semi-finals, for the breaststroke at least, you were going a whole second faster, so we were not really expecting that. It just means that I need to get more comfortable with getting up and racing my best times in the morning.
“We have been doing a little bit of work on that over the past year and I need to do more of it, doing the fast stuff in the morning as opposed to the evenings which I would normally do. There is stuff I need to work on and I know I need to get stronger and fitter. Hopefully we can make those changes.
It takes special discipline when you’re based in Canada, so far from home?
FD: “It is not even the getting up in the mornings. You set your alarm, it goes off and you think ‘oh God’, but once you get out it is fine. It is more so the weather over there. You are waking up, knowing it is -20 degrees or -30 degrees outside. You think ‘oh no’. You have snow until April and you can get sick of it.
“But the Canadians are absolutely fantastic. The University could not be more supportive and we have a fantastic group. Even when I don’t want to go in the mornings, we have such a good group that there is a good bit of craic going on. There is a lot of us around the same age and we are all in the same boat with having to get up. You put your head down and just do it. I am in too deep now, I have to keep going. That is part of the sport. Everyone has to do it.
It is every elite athlete’s dream to compete in an Olympic Games?
FD: “Absolutely. I am just relieved to be finally at the other side of the time, knowing that I am actually getting to go to the Olympics. We had a meeting with the Olympic Council a few weeks ago.
They were saying only 10,000 athletes get to go to the Olympics every four years. Considering hoe many people there are in the world, that’s amazing. Of that 10,000 there are only 900 swimmers. I feel I am very privileged.”