Triple Paralympic Gold medallist Ollie Hynd started his international swimming career at the 2011 IPC European Championships where he won Gold in the 200m individual medley. His medal collection is growing and he was awarded an MBE after winning his 200m race at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. We caught up with Ollie recently about his swimming career, receiving his MBE and how he stays focused on the day of a race.
Did you always know you wanted to be a professional swimmer, or was there another career you had in mind?
Yes, I always wanted to be a swimmer ever since I first got into competitive swimming aged nine. I’ve always loved the lifestyle of an athlete and training hard every day to get faster. I’m also a very competitive person so being a full-time swimmer kind of makes sense. I’m very fortunate to be able to do what I love as my job.
Which swimming stroke is your favourite?
My favourite swimming stroke is probably freestyle, and the 400m freestyle is my favourite event!
Which medal-winning race would you say challenged you the most?
The race that challenged me the most would definitely be my 200 IM in Rio. It came on day ten of the competition so I was quite tired by this point. The ‘games environment’ can be quite exhausting living and training in the village, so by the time it came around I certainly wasn’t too fresh. My two main rivals had been swimming well in their other events so I knew it was going to be a close race! It came down to the last 50m and I managed to edge it and get the win by 0.5 of a second! I was definitely relieved when I saw number one and world record next to my name!
How do you motivate yourself on the day of a race?
On the day of a race, especially at the Paralympic Games, I don’t really need to motivate myself and it is more just staying focused on what I need to do to race as fast as possible! By that point, all the hard work is done and it’s just about taking the opportunity in the race and racing hard, trying to get your hand on the wall first! For the most part, I listen to music to stay focused, usually Kanye West as he is one of my heroes!
What do you remember about your first ever race?
My first ever race was at the County Championships! All I can really remember from that day is feeling very nervous and not really knowing what to expect! My whole family came to watch me on the day to support me which was really nice. I think my competitive nature came out on that day as I ended up finishing second! Not bad for my first race! It was definitely a great experience and inspired me to keep going in the sport. Although, even to this day, if I go back to the pool where it was held, I still get nervous!
For young swimmers who would like to take the sport up professionally, what advice would you give?
I think for any young swimmer hoping to compete professionally, the best advice I could give is to stay patient and trust the people around you in your team! Swimming can be a frustrating sport at times as results don’t always come overnight, so there can be tough times but it’s so important to trust the process and trust that your coaches want the best for you and their plan and all the hard work you are doing will pay off eventually! I also think it’s important to believe in yourself! I’ve always been told that in order to succeed in life, you have to believe you can do it because if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody will!
Has anyone given you advice that has stayed with you throughout your career?
I guess it is the advice that I’ve just given! When you’re in season and doing a lot of volume in the pool and the gym, sometimes your times in competition don’t reflect all the great training you’re doing and my coach would always tell me to trust what we’re doing is right and believe everything will come good. The more experience I’ve gained in my career has of course made this easier!
Which sports do you enjoy watching?
When I’m not in the pool training or racing, I like to watch other sports! I enjoy watching all kinds of sport but my favourite would be football. I’m a massive Manchester United fan!
How do you like to spend your free time?
One of my big passions outside of the pool is fashion and sneakers. I love the whole culture and I’m always scrolling through Instagram looking at the latest releases and getting inspiration from it. My sneaker collection has certainly grown a lot this year!! I’m just as inspired by some of my favourite designers as I am my sporting heroes and it’s certainly an area I’d like to move into once my swimming career is over.
What was it like visiting Buckingham Palace and receiving your MBE?
It was one of the most incredible days of my life! I was able to bring my coach and my parents along with me to the ceremony too, which was great as they’re the ones that have helped me achieve in the pool. When I think back to the actual day it’s all a bit of a blur, I still can’t believe I was awarded such a prestigious honour for doing something that’s so normal to me and something that I love so much! I sometimes get my medal out if I need some inspiration!
How was it winning the Para-Swimming Performance Athlete of the Year for Swim England?
It was another massive honour to win at the Swim England Awards. It’s always nice to be recognised for your achievements, especially after smashing my own world record from Rio by over two seconds! This is something I’m very proud of!
What competitions are you training for at the moment?
Next year is going to be another busy one for me! I have the Commonwealth Games coming up in April, where I’m hoping to defend my 200 IM title, and then the European Championships later in the year where I’ll be hoping to again defend my titles. Hopefully there will be some records in there as well! Bring it on!!!
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