A Burnley Para swimmer has smashed his own world record to claim a gold medal in the S14 200m freestyle at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia.
Having trained with the Burnley Bobcats - an elite swimming squad based at St Peter's Leisure Centre - from the age of nine until he was 15, Rawtenstall-born Tom Hamer (19) saw off stiff competition from Australian Liam Schluter to finish in a time of 1 minute 5.88 seconds in Queensland to add a coveted Commonwealth gold to his two silver medals from the Rio Summer Paralympic Games in 2016.
Having become a full-time member of the British Para swim team at the age of just 16, Tom has averaged around 220km in the pool per month and trained six days a week in the run up to the Commonwealth Games, with the hard work paying off for the holder of the British records for the 50m, 200m, and 400m freestyle events, as well as the 200m Individual Medley.
“I’m really happy and super pleased," said Tom, who first competed at the Commonwealth Games as a 15-year-old in Glasgow. "Winning the gold means the world; I got silver in 2014 and it’s amazing to see four years on how much I've progressed and gone on to the gold."
Despite his swimming career having experienced a meteoric rise in recent years, Tom remains a "genuine, down-to-Earth lad" according to his former coach and the current Chairman of the Burnley Bobcats, Matt Holden, who highlighted the 2016 IPC European title-winner's mental strength as the key to his success.
"Seeing what he's doing now makes us all proud at Burnley Bobcats, and what gives me extra pride is the amount of times Tom was given little knock-backs and the work ethic he has shown as a result," said Matt. "No matter who tried to keep him down, he wouldn't have it.
"He was so into it; whatever it was, he was like: 'I'm going to do it, I'm going to get onto the world stage,'" Matt continued. "He was so determined. It was brilliant to watch."
Never the most eye-catchingly talented swimmer according to Matt, Tom more than made up for anything he lacked in innate ability with his receptive nature and keenness to better himself every single day while other, more naturally gifted athletes "let it go to waste" due to their comparatively lacklustre dedication.
"We always try to tell the swimmers that talent only takes you so far," said Matt of Tom, who swam the English Channel as part of a relay team in under 11 hours as a 12-year-old. "Tom was always the hardest worker in that pool. In his early days, if you'd asked me if he was going to go all the way, I would've probably said no, but in his later years when he started to mature, we realised this kid could go far."
Universally well-liked - Tom's Commonwealth teammate, Ellie Robinson, said she "couldn't be happier" for an "amazing teammate" after his world record - it is Tom's grounded personality that stands out most for Matt, who remembers an athlete who was "a really nice kid to train" who put "110%" into every session.
"If you go to see him anywhere now, he's not forgotten his roots," Matt said with a smile. "He'll come and hug you straight away."