KATHLEEN Dawson credits the mental toughness she found coming back from a potentially career-ending injury as a major factor in her selection for the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer.

The 23-year-old former Great Sankey High School student, who started out with Warriors of Warrington Swimming Club, suffered a ruptured ACL in 2018 that left her wondering if her Olympic dream would ever become a reality.

But the University of Stirling competitor's memorable British Swimming Selection Trials in London earlier this month saw her remarkable journey hit its peak, after this week being selected as one of 24 swimmers to be added to Team GB.

Dawson believes the lessons she learnt during her road to recovery, along with the support of Warriors coach Darren Ashley, have helped her become a medal contender in Japan.

“I originally started out thinking I’m going to get back to it, I’m going to get back to where I was beforehand, but there are points on that journey when you feel it’s stagnant,” said the back-stroker.

“There are times when it’s going up and down and you just don’t know how the end result is going to turn out so the whole process is definitely very rewarding.

“I would have never believed that I would be at this point two or three years later.

“I learnt I am hard as nails, I’ll come through it no matter what. I did surprise myself as I didn’t just take it lying down, I’m very proud of myself for that as well.

“I’ve been told since I was a kid that I can go this far by my coach Darren Ashley at Warriors. He always imposed his belief on to me and now I know, why can’t it be me.

“It’s only in this last year that I’ve taken on that belief and applied it to my swimming. It’s not just words, I really believe it now. That (the mental side) has definitely been a contributor.”

> How the story of Kathleen Dawson's Tokyo Olympics selection was broken

Dawson is looking to add to the 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals won by Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding in 1997.

She is one of more than 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded world class programme, allowing her to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.

And after setting Scottish records in the 100m and 200m backstroke at the trials to secure her Tokyo place, Dawson was quick to pay tribute to Gordon Mackay – the surgeon who operated on her knee.

“I think so,” she said when asked whether she might have had to give up on swimming if it had not been for his intervention.

“Had it been just a regular ACL surgery where they take a part of your hamstring and thread that back through your knee, it’s definitely revolutionary what he’s done.

“I wouldn’t be back in the pool competing as quickly as I had if it had not been for that so I’m very grateful for him and he told me, ‘This is what I’m going to do’ and I said, ‘Go for it’.”

n No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £30 million each week for good causes. Discover the positive impact playing The National Lottery has on sport at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #TracktoTokyo

Dawson is joined in the 24 swimmers added to Team GB this week by James Guy, who moved to Warrington from Bury and studied at Cardinal Newman High School before continuing his education down south.


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