IN just over 60 days, Limerick swimmer Fiona Doyle will take up her position on the starters block for the heats of the 100m breaststroke at the Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games.
A lifetime of work for the talented 24-year-old from Raheen. Two lengths of the pool at Barra da Tijuca away from reaching an Olympic semi-final.
Every four years 10,000 of the world’s finest athlete’s compete at the Olympic Games. Just 900 are swimmers and of that total, 450 are women. Doyle is in exalted and privileged company.
Last October, Doyle who recently completed a degree in Kinesiology from Canada’s University of Calgary, had her Olympic preparation seriously disrupted due to an unfortunate car accident.
”I was driving and had the right of way, but somebody didn't stop at a Stop sign. It was dark and by the time I saw them it was too late, so I ended up colliding with her.
"I sustained a concussion from that which meant that it took until the end of November until I got the all-clear to get back to all training. Up until that point I could do an hour of training each day.
"It was a tough six weeks afterwards, both physically and mentally. It is only since the end of December that I could pick up and get back to where I was before the accident.
"Fortunately, training had been going phenomenal up until the accident which meant I was two months ahead of where I was the year previous.
"Training wise, training has been back to normal for the past couple of months.
”It is more mentally it takes it out of you a bit, it is hard to mentally to get around from that, but thankfully I am no longer feeling the effects from it and the Europeans have been quite successful.
Former Crescent College Comprehensive student Doyle secured an impressive fourth placed finish in the 100m breaststroke final at the recent European Swimming Championships in London.
For good measure she also reached semi-finals in both the 200m breaststroke and 50m breaststroke events.
Last week, the Limerick woman was named Senior Performance Athlete of the Year at the Swim Ireland Annual Awards at the Titanic Centre, Belfast.
The award was in recognition of on her performances in particular at the World University Games where she won 50m Breaststroke silver and 100m Breaststroke Bronze, as well as qualifying for the Olympics.
Doyle told the Limerick Leader: ”We had a high expectation for the European Championships prior to the car accident, so obviously things had to change and we had to see how things were going with that.
"I didn't fully rest for the meet, I rested for a week which was quite short. It wasn't a priority meet. We didn't want to come down the whole way for that.
"Aside from all that, it went pretty successfully. It was a long week. A lot of those who actually won medals flew in and flew out. They only swan one event and I swam all three and made semi-finals in all three, a final in the 100m where I finished fourth.
“It was definitely a very successful Europeans. I am pretty happy with it and the times are where I would like them to be for now.
“Now it is full steam ahead and getting prepared for Rio to try and make it one step better.
"There are worst places to finish than fourth. A lot of people would have been delighted with that. On the otherhand it would have been nice to come away with a medal.”
The Limerick swimmer admits she has some concerns over the Zika virus, transmitted by mosquito bites, which appeared in Brazil two years ago.
A group of more than 100 prominent doctors and professors sent an open letter to the World Health Organization last week calling for this summer’s Olympics to be postponed or moved ‘in the name of public health.’
Fiona Doyle intends to compete in Rio de Janeiro while admitting to having some concerns about the threat posed by the virus.
"I have been told by people who have been there that it is not as bad in Rio and on the coast. They have been looking at ways of reducing the number of mosquitoes there. I imagine that once I am in the Olympic village, it won't be as bad, particularly as it is indoors.
"We are fortunate that the pool is indoors. It is definitely something that is going to be on my mind and I am going to have to be extra cautious to ensure I am wearing long sleeves and long pants and have all the appropriate sprays on and have to ensure that I look out for myself.”
Doyle is taking part in an Olympic training camp in Barcelona until June 10, followed by a two-day swim meet on June 11 and 12.
The Limerick swimmer has high expectations for this summer Olympics with making the semi-final of the 100m her minimum goal.
"I think there is definitely a lot more in me. I definitely have enough to compete at the top level with the other girls, even do better than a lot of them.
"I have high expectations for myself for the Olympics. I definitely expect a second swim at the very least.
”I hope for more, but I think there is a lot more there. We have done a lot of work this year and the fact I co do the times I did at the Europeans when I haven't fully rested and it wasn't the perfect race by any means - I came back afterwards and there were a lot I could have done better in the race - which I will be working on in the next couple of weeks to make sure I do nail it at the Olympics.
"All those factors you have to take into account when you are preparing. I see no reason why I cannot get significantly better.
In one sense I realise how close the Olympics are, but on the other I am trying to take things step by step and not get ahead of myself and not get too anxious about it.
"It is exciting, but it is still quite surreal that this is really happening that I am actually going to Rio. I am really excited.”