Brendan Hyland has just completed his final year in Accounting and Finance at Dublin City University. In the coming weeks, Brendan and Team Ireland will be representing in the pool at the 2019 Fina World Championships in South Korea. If he finishes in the top 16 in any of his individual races or top 12 in the team races, Brendan is likely to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
Can you tell us where it all began for you?
It’s funny that I ended up being a swimmer, because I come from a family of boxers. I grew up in a place called Balrothery in Tallaght with my mam, dad and sister. My dads family are all boxers. I have cousins who boxed for Ireland, my dad naturally enough thought I would end up going down the same road, but Mam had different plans!
There was a pool just up the road from our house, Balrothery Swimming Pool, and when I turned three, my parents brought me up to start swimming lessons. I loved it from the very start and apparently I was good from the get go. At the age of seven, I was enticed to join the local swimming club, Tallaght Swim Club, and here I was doing two sessions a week under the supervision of a coach.
He was great and he pushed me to practice all four strokes. Typically, you would specialise in just one, but my coach wanted me to keep my options open, so I practiced them all. About two years later, at the age of nine, I took part in my first competition – the U10 200m Butterfly, which I won. I was so delighted. This was my first taste of success in the pool and probably where my passion to succeed in swimming began.
When did swimming become a serious sport for you?
While I enjoyed swimming, I was still taking part in other sports like soccer and rugby, but at the age of 14 I decided to pack them in and focus solely on becoming a better swimmer.
When I turned 16, I moved to the National Performance Centre in Blanchardstown. Initially I was not recognised as a strong enough swimmer to be invited to train there, but because I was friendly with some of the top swimmers, I asked for permission and was granted a trial period.
Over the course of the 18 months that followed, I went from a swimmer who wasn’t winning medals in U16 competitions to coming 5th in the European Junior Championships and breaking the Irish Junior and Senior record. I knocked 20 seconds off my 200m Butterfly, which is a seriously significant drop and I was 2 seconds away from an Olympic qualification time. The progress I made in that short time was incredible and it was then that swimming in the Olympics went from being a dream to being a goal.
With just a year to go until the next Olympic Games, has training increased in hope of qualification?
Training is pretty much the same as usual, I train Monday to Saturday every week and then rest on Sunday. A typical week would involve two swims on a Monday followed by a gym session that evening. On Tuesday, I have two swims, Wednesday is one swim and a gym session and then I get a bit of a break until Thursday evening when I do another swim. On Friday, I go back to two swims and on Saturday I usually have a swim in the morning followed by a gym session. While my schedule hasn’t really changed it’s still a busy one!
When is the next opportunity for you to qualify for the Olympics?
The Irish trials took place earlier this year where I qualified to compete in to the World Championships taking place in Gwangju in South Korea. I will be taking part in three individual races and two relay races at the World Championships. To qualify for the Olympics, I need to place in the top 16, so if I get to a semi-final I’m likely to make it. At the minute, my best 200m Butterfly time 1:57:21 and the Olympic time is 1:56:48, so I need to work really hard to knock off those extra seconds. For our relay team to qualify, we must place in the top 12. If things don’t go to plan at the World Championships, I will have one more chance of qualification for the individual events at the Irish trials next April, but fingers crossed all will go well in Gwangju.
You’ve just completed your degree, what are you going to miss most about the University?
There’s probably too much to mention, but if I had to pick one thing, it would be my involvement with the DCU Swim Club, where I coach every day. I’ve been doing this for the last few years and it’s something I really enjoy. When I first took over, literally one or two people would show up and now we have at least 35 active members. It’s great craic and there are some really brilliant swimmers. We take it seriously, but I also make sure it’s fun. It’s really important that the students are enjoying it because if they don’t enjoy it, they won’t come back. Thankfully, in swimming there is a year grace period. Even though I have just finished my studies, I can still swim with the University for another year, so I don’t have to say goodbye just yet!