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The Speedo Aquatics GB Swimming Championships, a qualifying event for the Paris Olympics, begin today in London (Tuesday 2 April) – with a 26-year-old Stornoway girl at the heart of the Olympic dream.

Kara Hanlon has competed at a European Championships, Commonwealth Games and a World Championships – and now is hoping to secure Olympic qualification as the final piece in her international collection.

Now a University of Edinburgh swimmer, coached by Mat Trodden, Kara is the British Record Holder in the 50m and 100m breaststroke and will face stiff competition in the attempt to become an Olympian.

But Scottish Swimming says she will ‘embrace the opportunity’ to continue her story, from a small pool on Stornoway to the biggest sporting stage on the planet.

The event’s being staged at the London Aquatics Centre at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from 2-7 April, playing a key role in the selection of the Team GB squad, who’ll be searching for historic success in Paris in July.

If her performance in London over the course of the next six days qualifies her, Kara will make history as the first swimmer from the Western Isles to make it to an Olympic Games.

Scottish Swimming’s summary of what she’s facing says: “Kara will need to secure personal bests to book her place on the plane.

“But going by her form in the past two seasons, Kara is certainly one to watch out for, and there’s no bigger incentive than a Team GB selection.”

Kara herself is staying calm in the face of the huge challenge. She told the Herald Scotland: “I can only control what I can control. If I can put my races together in the way I’ve been doing in training then hopefully I’ve got a good outcome coming my way.

“I’m always going to put more pressure on myself than anyone else can ever put on me, especially when it comes to Olympic trials.

“But it’s definitely a weakness to think too much about actually getting to the Olympics. Over the next few days, I want to leave everything in the pool and use all the emotions to bring out the best in me.”

She’ll be hunting for qualification alongside other Scots – medallists Duncan Scott and Kathleen Dawson, as well as Katie Shanahan, Lucy Hope and Keanna MacInnes.

Speaking to the Herald, Kara said: “A few years ago, if you’d asked me if I thought I could ever get to an Olympics, I’d probably have said no.

“I just didn’t think I was good enough – I’m a very realistic person and I didn’t think I’d get good enough to be in with a chance.

“But over the past few years, that’s changed and it’s gone from having the dream of making it but thinking it probably wouldn’t happen to now having the chance right in front of me.”

Kara goes into this week’s British trials as defending champion for the 100m breaststroke and will need to shave another half-second from her championship time to match Team GB’s Olympic qualifying standard.

But there’s added incentive, she says, because she wants to prove that islanders are capable of achieving great things.

She told the Herald: “I’d be so proud to be the first from the islands to get to the Olympics – not just for me but for the islands too.

“It would show that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, if you work hard and you’re dedicated to your sport, you can make it from anywhere.”

Details of where to find start lists, results and coverage of the events this week can be found from

The picture of Kara is from Scottish Swimming.