Tom still mastering his art

HE RECENTLY turned 30, but responding to whether he thinks this will be his last Commonwealth Games, Tom Hollingsworth started to double guess himself.

‘I’ve kind of had it in the back of my mind that the Guernsey 2021 Island Games would be pretty fitting to be my last one [big event],’ he said.

‘My first one was the home Island Games in 2003, so I thought it would be a good one to finish having gone full circle.

‘But, as it has got closer, I’m not sure now – maybe I will keep going.’

Hollingsworth has now arrived down under to take his place among the three-strong Guernsey swim team at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games alongside Miles Munro and teenage debutante Tatiana Tostevin.

Somewhere between arriving in Australia and talking to the Guernsey Press, he has lost the best part of a day because the multiple Island Games gold medallist is currently 18 months into a two-year work secondment in Toronto.

He is thinking about extending that arrangement for KPMG because he is enjoying the lifestyle of Canada, but somewhat surprisingly, when it comes to swimming, he explains that it is very much like home for him.

‘Toronto is a very up-and-coming city, it’s fast-growing and you get all the perks of any city,’ Hollingsworth said.

On the swimming side of things, though: ‘Toronto does not have as good facilities as you would perhaps think for a big city. They do have some 50m pools, but with such a demand for them it is difficult to get pool time as they are more catered for university students and teams and the Canadian national swimmers.

‘The facility I train in is more similar to Beau Sejour in that it is a six-lane 25m pool.

‘I train with a masters club, so it is more your older swimmers who still enjoy it, might want to compete, but are more into it for the social aspect.

‘I was lucky to find a team who started up in the last three years so I was able to join up right away – there was no waiting list.

‘I couldn’t be happier with the club. It’s not busy, but among the people who are with the team are some great swimmers, including ex-national swimmers who still enjoy it.

‘It makes it quite refreshing training with people who do it because they just love it.’

His went on to reveal that his coach is a PHD bio-mechanic who ‘really knows her stuff in technique and in training programmes’, which has made his task of being in peak condition for his fourth Games much easier.

‘I didn’t know I would be going until it was officially announced in November, although I had swum qualification times at the Island Games in Gotland and then at the World Masters Championships in Budapest in August.

‘So I was in a good physical state at the time, but once the official announcement was made, I made a plan with my coach for the Commonwealths.

‘I know from experience, in order to perform well it is more about consistency for me to deliver the results I want.’

Hollingsworth is a remarkable character.

Meet him poolside while in his tracksuit and among a crowd, it is hard to believe that this constantly smiling, humble, unimposing guy is the same man as the one who powers his way through the water with such purpose.

But once he dons the cap and goggles, he just seems to grow in stature massively.

He also takes great pride in representing Guernsey as he showed last summer and those gold-medal-winning displays make him believe he can go well down under.

‘I think my best year in term of times was 2015, right before I tore my ACL,’ Hollingsworth said.

‘It took a long time to recover and a lot of rehab to get my strength back to a very good level.

‘I was quite pleasantly surprised with my performances in Gotland at the Island Games last year and I feel I am a lot closer to my best now.

‘At the moment, I am close to the best I have ever swum and I can see it in my times in training.’

Hollingsworth will not be spreading himself too thin at Gold Coast and has restricted his programme to what he calls ‘definitely my better event by far’, the 50m and 100m backstroke.

So what does he hope to achieve?

‘I would like to make a semi-final.

‘Looking at the last Games, what it took to get to the semi-final and what I have swum in the last year and what I should be capable of with the work I’ve done since then, I think it’s a realistic target.

‘I’ve seen the stadium on the Gold Coast and it does look a lot bigger to what I usually compete in, but I don’t think I will be fazed by it.

‘It’s amazing to get the chance to compete there and I feel truly honoured to be able to do it for Guernsey and get the opportunity to race with that class of swimmer.’

On this occasion, all three of the Guernsey swim team are Beau Sejour Barracudas, albeit not one of the trio is based on island.

While Hollingsworth is in Canada, Munro is at Bath University and Tostevin is at Millfield.

However, the elder statesman of the team said morale is very good between them.

‘Miles and I are good friends so we are in contact quite often.

‘Tatiana looks like she’s in great form and it will be a brilliant experience for her. She has got a great future ahead of her and she does not get ahead of herself – she’s got the right personality to go far.

‘I’m looking forward to seeing them there as well as Sara [Parfit, the swim team manager].’

Being a veteran of three previous Commonwealths, there was one thing in particular Hollingsworth was looking forward to before heading to the Gold Coast.

‘It’s the athletes’ village, being able to live alongside some of the world’s best athletes and then there’s the food hall…that always stands out as a great highlight for me, being able to eat 24/7,’ he said.

‘You have to control yourself before you race, but once you’re finished it’s a great place to be.’

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