Attracting more girls to take up sport and pursue careers in engineering have been identified as key government goals in recent years and, in Camilla Hattersley, they have their dream role model.
The 21-year-old Perth swimmer is preparing for her Olympic debut next month and the phrase ‘making the plane’ to Rio takes on added significance as she juggles her elite swimming career with studying aeronautical engineering at the University of Glasgow.
Hattersley, who enjoyed a perfect final tune-up by winning four titles at the weekend’s Scottish Championships, is part of the record contribution of eight from north of the Border in the 26-strong Team GB swim team – a hefty 31 per cent. She had to stifle a yelp of excitement in the uni library when she received the e-mail confirming her selection for the team following strong performances at the British trials, which were held in her home Tollcross pool back in April.
Due to her swimming commitments, Hattersley studies part-time but even that is a challenge in what she describes as an intense and demanding subject. “I always enjoyed maths and physics at school and wanted to go into engineering,” she explained. “I thought the aeronautical course looked the most interesting.”
It was back to hydrodynamics in Glasgow at the weekend, however, as Hattersley stormed to national freestyle titles in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1,500m. That last one – her final race before Rio – saw her shave eight seconds off her own Scottish record as she won in 16:16.72. Hattersley’s showing at the British Championships saw her earn selection for the 800m when she finished second to world medallist and Commonwealth champion Jazz Carlin, pictured right, and the 200m relay squad after she reached the final and posted a personal best qualifying time at the shorter distance.
She rates those performances as the joint highlight of her career alongside her seventh-place finish in the final of the 800m at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. “I love this pool,” she said of Tollcross. “I train here almost every day and I always seem to swim fast here.”
Success in the water and the stress of exams have seen the last couple of months pass in a bit of a blur for Hattersley, who was born in Edinburgh but moved to Perth aged six, and she admitted the fact she is actually Rio-bound is only now starting to hit home. “I think it sunk in last Wednesday when I was picking up the kit in Birmingham, that’s when I started to feel it was actually real,” she said. “I can’t wait to get to Rio now and wear it.”
The Stella McCartney-designed gear gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from the Scot. “It’s really lovely and I think we’re definitely going to stand out in it in a good way.”
Hattersley carried the Olympic torch in her hometown as the London Games approached and said she would never have believed that, four years on, she would be in the British team.
“My school was picked and ten of us were chosen to carry the torch,” she explained. “I never for a moment thought that come the next Olympic Games I would be taking part. Those thoughts only really started after the Commonwealth Games, when I performed well but knew I had lots of improvement ahead of me.”
Hattersley started swimming when she was eight and her first Olympic inspiration goes back to the stunning success of Rebecca Adlington eight years ago. She recalled: “I remember watching her at Beijing in 2008 and I was already doing 400m and 800m so it was amazing to see a British swimmer be the best in the world at those events. It did inspire me to maybe think about getting to an Olympics one day, although I never thought that I would. But now the dream has become reality.”
She intends to savour the experience and admits the prospect of competing against American sensation Katie Ledecky in the 800m and catching a glimpse of the legendary Michael Phelps are exciting prospects. But she is equally determined to enhance her own burgeoning reputation and said: “I feel I’m in really good form and in training I’ve been swimming faster than I ever have before so I think I can go to Rio, produce some really good performances and post some PBs.”
Hattersley is joined in the team by fellow Scots Robbie Renwick, Ross Murdoch, Hannah Miley, Craig Benson, Stephen Milne, Dan Wallace and Duncan Scott and is proud to be part of such an impressive tartan contingent.
“I think it’s the highest percentage we’ve ever had going to an Olympic Games, which is really brilliant for us Scots,” she said. “There is a lot of up and coming talent in Scotland at the moment. When one person does well it lifts up and inspires the others to do well and follow their lead.”