Focus on... Emma Hollis
Geography student Emma Hollis is on full steam ahead for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, splitting her time between training and her degree, and loving every minute.
Emma, who will begin her second year studying a BSc Geography degree in the new term, is a world-class swimmer hoping for her chance to swim in the Paralympic Games.
The 19 year old has already racked up an extensive resume of swimming achievements, winning six medals in April at the British International Disability Championships in Sheffield and coming home with five medals and five personal bests in July at the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) European Championships in Berlin.
I take my degree really seriously and obviously I take the swimming side of it really seriously as well. At any other university in the country, I couldn’t have done both well.
An impressive feat on its own, yet for Emma there is even more significance, having broken her ankle last November forcing her out of action. Emma explains;
“It was touch and go even whether I’d go to Europeans or not, and then coming out with five medals from five events that I entered. It was higher than I could ever have thought and five PB’s as well.”
Yet despite the high demands of swimming, Emma still finds time to focus on her other passion, geography;
“I’m a bit of a geography geek. I like physical geography, the volcanoes and things like that. The degree here is a lot more focused on the physical; it’s what I want to do in a degree.”
As she began to look into universities, she knew she had no other choice but to come to Loughborough.
“I take my degree really seriously and obviously I take the swimming side of it really seriously as well. And any other university in the country I couldn’t have done both well. But here, everything sort of comes together and I had no other option really. I was going to have to come here; I was destined to come here.”
Emma has begun researching her dissertation possibilities, having meetings and discussion with the British Geographical Survey (BGS) and her lecturer John Hillier. “John Hillier did an environmental hazards mitigation course with a module and that is me all over. I approached him and said, this is what I want to do, I really want to take this further, how do I do it? So he put me in the contact with BGS, and they’re already helping me with topics for my dissertation and we’re going to working together. Which I’m really excited about.”
With her interest in both swimming and geography, the department and coaches, have been able to provide her with the opportunity to succeed in both, especially her main coach, Ian Armiger;
“The whole department have been really helpful in letting me have time off to go on training camps and competitions, things like that.”
“I don’t know that I would have carried on swimming if wasn’t for coming here. Because everyone here is so supportive and Ian does understand that we’ve got a lot of academic commitments as well and the university realise that we’ve got a lot of sport commitments, it’s made it work.”
Both Emma and her brother have osteogenesis imperfect, more commonly known as brittle bones. It was through this condition that Emma found her passion in swimming;
“The doctor advised us when we were younger to take up swimming to strengthen the muscles which in turn would hold your bones together basically. So we started lessons and things like that and actually really enjoyed it so moved on into a club.”
Now practicing for the Paralympic Games, it was through good friends at the club who encouraged her mother to get Emma and her brother classified for disability swimming. As Emma explains;
“After classification, I went to my first nationals when I was 13, and then I broke my first British record when I was 16, which was 2008, at the Beijing trials and I was less than a second outside the qualifying time for Beijing.”
It’s Emma’s passion and drive that has enabled her to succeed in both her swimming and course life;
“I’m keen to just do it. I’m the sort of person that I like to keep myself busy. When I’m not training and when I’m not working I’m sitting around doing nothing and I’m sort of feeling a bit of a loose end.”
Yet, while her success is apparent, Emma is keen to keep a sensible and realistic goal towards London 2012;
“If you set your sights on ‘I am going to represent GB I am going to go’ and then you don’t qualify, the likelihood of you getting back in the pool afterwards is really slim. But if you say to yourself ‘I want to, I can do it, I’ve just got to work really hard’ and then you don’t, you’re going to get back in that pool even more determined to go for the next games.”
While her swimming career is still going strong, she’s not worried about what the future brings, determined to welcome whatever comes her way. As she clarifies;
“I don’t know whether I’m still going to be swimming in 5 years time, but I want to know that when I do finish swimming I can then go and hopefully work with someone like BGS or go and sit on top of my volcano.”
Emma has some important up-coming trials in the next coming months, with Paralympic qualifiers in March and April.
Follow her progress on the Loughborough Swimming website.