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A different waterworld for Nicholas Quinn


IN FULL FLOW Nicholas Quinn is pictured swimming for Ireland during the Men’s 200m breaststroke heats at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. Pic: Sportsfile


Name: Nicholas Quinn
Club: Castlebar
Age: 27
Lives: Edinburgh
Did you know? Nicholas is aiming to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games.

Nicholas Quinn
I WAS three weeks out from the Olympic Games’ qualification trials in Dublin before word filtered through that they had been postponed until June.
With swimming you normally qualify for whatever the main competition is around April time. Everyone was getting ready for that and then the rug was pulled from under us a bit, but it was the same with everyone around the world.
My last competition was in March, about one or two weeks before lockdown, and it doesn’t look like there’s going to be anything happening this side of Christmas.
During lockdown, whatever chance you have on a land-based sport, you can’t replicate being in the water for a swimmer. I was doing as much running and cycling as anybody but it’s not the same as being in the water. I was a bit relieved that I didn’t have to prepare for June trials, but around June and July I got a bit frustrated that I didn’t get the opportunity to see what I could do.
It’s all provisional at this stage but the plan is that trials will go ahead, so it’s about getting my head down and preparing as best I can with everything going on.
I train with the Edinburgh University swim team, so we’ve two sessions a day: 9am to 11am and 3pm to 5pm. The last couple of years I went to Spain to Sierra Nevada to live in an altitude camp to get the body used to restricted oxygen. We can’t do that this year with travel restrictions so I’ve actually been living in an altitude chamber.
I guess it’s all the more reason to be in the flat. I’ve been going from the flat to the pool to the altitude chamber to sleep in that for a couple of hours. And then repeat.
I’m very fortunate here in the university that we have our own pool. We’ve put ourselves in a bubble of 12 swimmers where there’s only 12 of us in the water, two in either lane but starting in opposite ends, so if one of us has Covid then there’s only one close contact.
Every day before we get to the pool we have to fill out a form and answer some questions, get our temperature taken, sanitize and get changed straight on pool deck.
No changing rooms, no showers, just straight into the water. Get changed, get out, go home. It’s very strict protocol but I’m also very lucky that I’m able to swim ten times a week and go to the gym three or four times a week.
Everything around it has changed, but it’s a small price to pay to be in the water.
We have three strength and conditioning sessions a week where we work on our strength and then try and apply that to the pool. We work on strength and basic lifts and also on the power elements that translate into the pool.

Racing and rustiness
I USUALLY compete in the 100 metre and 200 metre breaststroke. Not having any competitions at the moment is tough. The whole reason I’m swimming is because I love to race.
I obviously like to train but racing is why you do it. We’re talking about trying to have virtual time trials and different competitions but it’s not the same until you stand on the blocks and you’re racing someone.
I’m not that worried about having no competitions before Christmas. If I haven’t raced before the Olympic trials in April there’ll be some rustiness there that I won’t have time to get rid of.
Last year I took a year out to concentrate completely on preparing for the Olympics, but I just couldn’t go doing that again for another year. I do my best to try and juggle both of them. One positive of lockdown is that there’s nothing happening, so I literally go from my flat, to the pool, to the flat again. Everything is online so I don’t have to come into college for anything.
I’m trying to use between now and Christmas to get ahead of college work before the really important swimming time in April.
Edinburgh is very quiet compared to what it would normally be. It’s kind of what Ireland was like just before it went into lockdown. All the cafés and restaurants are on restricted hours. I’m lucky that the pools and gyms are still open here but there are question marks as to how long that will be the case. Everyone is keeping themselves to themselves.
My life is pretty straightforward at the minute. I pretty much get up and go to the pool then go to shops and then come home.
I played everything when I was younger, gaelic, hurling rugby, basketball. But for me – it’s probably a bit selfish – but when I stand on the blocks I have nobody else to blame and nowhere to hide. If it goes well it’s all down to the work that I have done and the coaches and support team have done to get me to that point.
I think having control of my own destiny is the reason swimming is the sport I ended up sticking with. Every decision I make, I live with it, good or bad.

In conversation with Oisín McGovern.

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