By Ben Hart, Sportsbeat
For Stornoway swimmer Kara Hanlon simply accessing the sport she loves has never been simple.
Travel to one of her more ‘local’ competitions in Aberdeen, would consist of a two-and-a-half-hour ferry followed by a three-and-a-half-hour bus.
That is why Hanlon’s first Commonwealth games appearance is as much about representing the people of her town, as it is Team Scotland.
“Having no local competitions made it difficult and made me realise that if I wanted to progress, I would have to travel far to compete,” she said.
Incredible story of swimmer @KaraHanlon4's journey from training in a 12.5m pool on the Isle of Lewis to selection to Team Scotland for Birmingham 2022! 🏴
Read her full story ⬇️
— Team Scotland (@Team_Scotland) July 21, 2022
“But nobody had really done that before and it was nice as everything was new and there was always a new experience coming.
“When you’ve got six hours of travel it makes it difficult to get back for work, so my parents often had to take an extra day off.
“Looking back, it shows how much they were willing to do to enable me to follow my dreams in the sport.”
For the Hanlon family, swimming was something they would do together. Hanlon’s parents would often take her and her siblings to a 12.5m pool in Ness, a far cry from the brand-new Sandwell Aquatics Centre which has been opened specifically for the Games.
Travel remains a barrier for Hanlon's parents, who were absent as she won gold at the British Championships in Sheffield in April, but much to her delight, both will be in attendance in Birmingham.
“I owe them an abundance of thanks and am so grateful that they have always supported me,” she said.
“It’ll be amazing to see their faces in the crowd and that will give me some comfort, knowing that they’re always there to support me.
“They absolutely swim every stroke with me and I always know that they are watching even if they can’t be there in person.”
This summer, Team Scotland, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will compromise of over 250 athletes, and having secured her place on the squad, Hanlon is looking for medal success.
In 2016 Hanlon moved to Edinburgh to study sports science and stayed on for a Masters in sports policy management and international development, which she is due to finish next year.
Regardless of her success as an athlete, Hanlon hopes to be involved in sport for years to come.
“I would love to find a job within the sports management business side,” she said.
“That’ll be an exciting chapter when the time is right. I also want to keep on swimming for as long as I enjoy it and as long as I am able to.”
Hanlon is delighted to be involved at Birmingham 2022 having narrowly missed out on qualification for Gold Coast four years ago.
With the Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, Hanlon hopes sharing her story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality.
“I’m hoping to do myself, my family, and my coach proud,” she said.
“I want to get as close to a podium finish as I can. It shows that you can come from any background and, if you really love what you do, you can do anything.”
National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes.