Countdown to Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games

Charlotte Atkinson

Athlete Profile: Charlotte Atkinson

Age: 19

Hometown: Douglas

Sport: Swimming

Sports Club: Douglas Amateur Swimming Club

Occupation: Loughborough University - BSc Hons Degree in Human Biology 

When did you first represent Team Isle of Man at a Commonwealth Games?

In 2011 when I was 14 years old I competed in the Commonwealth Youth Games as part of Team Isle of Man. This was so exciting because it was such a major international competition and was held in the Isle of Man, so it was wonderful to have so much local support from friends, family and the local swimming community.  It was a brilliant time for me because I reached 4 finals in 200m Backstroke, 200m Butterfly, 400m Freestyle, 400m Individual Medley, and I came 5th in the 400m Individual Medley.  I am still friends with many of the swimmers I met at the Commonwealth Youth Games, and it was amazing to meet some of them again when I competed in the Commonwealth Games as part of Team Isle of Man in 2014.

Glasgow 2014

How did you first begin Swimming? 

I have always loved swimming and was confident in the pool from a very early age. When I was about 6 years old my parents took me for a trial to become a member of Douglas Amateur Swimming Club, but I wasn’t accepted first time round! But because I loved swimming so much they took me along to the next trials and I was accepted, and I am still a member of DASC now.  

How does it feel to represent Team Isle of Man at a Commonwealth Games?

One of the reasons I love being part of Team Isle of Man is because the team spirit amongst the swimmers is fantastic.  Most of us have grown up together and been part of Isle of Man Swimming for many years. I competed in the local League Matches and the Championships from the age of 8, so I have a close bond with everyone involved in swimming on the Island, and that makes representing Team Isle of Man so very special. For this reason, it is always an extremely proud moment for me and hugely emotional to see the Manx flag raised and to sing the Manx National Anthem when I have won Gold as part of Team Isle of Man.   

What is the best thing about being a Swimmer?

There are two things that I love about competing in my sport. Firstly I love to be part of the team. I have been part of Team Isle of Man at 2011 Island Games in the Isle of Wight, 2013 Games in Bermuda and 2015 Games in Jersey, and it has been an amazing feeling to win a total of 12 Golds, 8 Silver and 2 Bronze and to set 6 new Island Games records. At each of these Games there has been amazing local support and the crowd reaction has always been brilliant. For me these were wonderful times and made me extremely proud to be Manx.  

The other best thing about competing in my sport is the individual success I have achieved. It was brilliant to be one of only 4 girls to be selected for Team GB at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in China.  This was one of the greatest experiences ever, and would not have been possible without my many years training on the Island and at Plymouth Leander, and all the input and encouragement given to me by everyone at Isle of Man Swimming.

What springs to mind when you think of the Commonwealth Games?

Lots of things spring to mind when I think of the Commonwealth Games. Firstly, the atmosphere around the Athletes Village and at the different venues is amazing. I love wearing the team kit and chatting to other athletes from all over the World and telling them all about the Island and where it is. The Commonwealth Games are the highest level of competition that the Isle of Man can take part in, so we all have the same aim which is to make everyone on the Island extremely proud.

Also, a big part of being at the Commonwealth Games is being with sportsmen and women that you have grown up with and who are competing in lots of different sports as   part of Team Isle of Man. The athletes always take the time to go and support their team mates competing in other sports, and it is fantastic to see the Manx flags and your team-mates in the crowd supporting you, and goes a long way to inspire each of us to do our best for our Island.  

What has been your favourite sporting moment whilst involved with Team Isle of Man?

I have had so many brilliant sporting moments whilst I have been involved with Team Isle of Man. My achievements at Island Games and Commonwealth Youth Games in 2011 resulted in me being named Isle of Man Under 21 Sportswoman of the Year at the age of 14. I had never imagined that this was something I could achieve, especially at such a young age. Another favourite sporting moment for me was winning 8

Gold and 2 Silver at the Island Games in 2015, and setting 4 more new Island Games records. Following on from these achievements I was named Under 21 Sportswoman of the Year 2015, which was a terrific honor for me.

Have you got any funny stories to share with us during your time at the Commonwealth Games?

I haven’t got a funny story from Commonwealth Games but something that was joked about after I competed as part of Team Isle of Man at Island Games 2015 was that I brought home more Golds than 17 other countries won with their combined sports.

What has been your ultimate achievement in sport?

It’s hard to pick one ultimate sporting achievement. The first is being placed in the Top 10 World Rankings for my time in the 100m Butterfly in March 2014. This was an amazing achievement for me, and something I would never imagined possible when I started my swimming career at the NSC at 7 years old. 

Another sporting achievement in the pool of which I am very proud was winning Silver in the 4x100m Medley relay at the Youth Olympic Games.  I had an incredible time at the Games, made even more special by having a Master Class with Olympic Gold Medalist Chad le Clos. This was televised on Blue Peter and I was chosen as one of the athletes to be focused on. 

Most recently, in April this year I competed in the Olympic Trials for Rio 2016, racing against the fastest swimmers in Great Britain, so it was fantastic to reach finals in 100m and 200m Butterfly. Also, in July I competed in the British Summer Championships, and it was another highlight in my swimming career to achieve double British National Champion in 100m and 200m Butterfly.

What one or two things do you currently do in your training that are keys to your success?

For me the main key to success is making the correct life choices. It can often be difficult if your friends are leading the teenage life whilst you have to consider training early the next morning, eating the right food and going to bed early, but if you are dedicated to your sport then these things become second nature. 

Also I believe it is crucial to always train hard, both in the pool and in the gym. This is something I focus on always doing, and I strive to never miss any training sessions.

A saying regularly used amongst swimmers is that our lives can be summed up as Eat Sleep Swim.  Swimming is a tough sport often involving pool training twice a day plus regular gym sessions, so Eat Sleep Swim is a life that swimmers become used to.

Have you had any key role models growing up?

My role model when I was growing up was Rebecca Adlington, Olympic Gold Medalist in the 400m and 800m Freestyle.  In the 2008 Olympics, Rebecca was the first woman to win swimming gold for Great Britain since 1960 and this achievement inspired and motivated me in the pool. I then progressed to compete in the 400m and 800m Freestyle at National and International level, setting eight Junior and Senior Island records in both. Eventually I set 56 Junior and Senior Island records in all events apart from breast stroke, so it was brilliant for me to meet her at The ASA National Championships in 2012 where we were both competing.

What has been the most significant challenge you have faced in your preparation leading up to a sporting event?

One of the most significant challenges I have faced in preparation leading up to a sporting event is overcoming injury.  This can be an extremely stressful time, so it is essential to follow the advice of your physiotherapist and coach and take your time to recover, rather than being impatient and delaying recovery.

What would be your recommendations for a young aspiring athlete aiming to represent CGA IOM?

My advice to a young aspiring athlete aiming to represent Team Isle of Man is to always be resilient.  There are always high and low times during an athlete’s career, and it would be easy to feel disheartened and no longer feel motivated to carry on.  Every athlete suffers these periods along the way, but it is essential to always remain positive whilst pursuing your goals and aspirations.  

Where do you see yourself in the future? What aims do you have?

At present I am studying a BSc Hons Degree in Human Biology at Loughborough University, and I train with the Loughborough Swimming Team, so I will definitely continue with my training there for the next two years during term time, and on the Island when I’m home. I still have lots of aims with regard to my future swimming career, and the Olympic Games is every athlete’s ultimate goal. At present I cannot imagine my life without swimming being a major part of it, and I intend to continue along that path for many years to come.