Turriff athlete Conner Morrison says he’s heading for the Tokyo Paralympics to leave “the best version of me out there”.
The 23-year-old has been selected to compete in the SB14 100m breaststroke at the Games, which begin on August 24.
Morrison had gone close to the qualifying mark for Tokyo on multiple occasions this year, including at the British Para-swimming International Meet at Ponds Forge, Sheffield, and at the European Championships in Madeira, Portugal – where he also retained the silver medal he won in 2018.
He was delighted to get the Team GB nod earlier this week and thinks his consistency won over the selectors, saying: “I’m over the moon. I didn’t think I would get it.
“There was a fear at a point where I didn’t have the time.
“But it’s not all about the time, it’s about how you conduct yourself and that’s what they looked for.”
Morrison says reaching the pinnacle of his sport has made a lot of time spent in the car travelling to and from Aberdeen Sports Village Aquatics Centre worthwhile – and is beyond what he thought possible when he took up swimming.
He explained: “I said to a couple of my mates I would try swimming out just for a bit of fun. I didn’t realise I would get this far in my career.
“I stay in Turriff. It’s an hour in and an hour back, so it’s a bit of a trek. It’s been worth it.”
Coach Gregor McMillan has seen two of his athletes make the grade for Tokyo, with 17-year-old Aberdonian Toni Shaw also in the British team.
While Shaw has been a high-profile success in recent years, McMillan says he is “really proud” of Morrison, whose development has accelerated since the ASV pool has reopened post-Covid lockdown.
McMillan thinks the shut-down was a “refresh” for Morrison, and said: “In the early years, it was just about development and then the breakthrough came in 2017.
“It’s been a bit of a rocky road since, but Conner’s just been exceptional.
“Lockdown was ideal for him, as he got to mature and develop into an adult is the best way of describing that. He’s come back off the back of that and been consistent in training, worked hard and delivered.
“The performance in Sheffield was excellent and he was able to replicate it with something very, very similar at Europeans.
“As just a standalone performance, I was happy he did that. The fact he was such a small percentage outside the qualifying time was irrelevant.
“It was just about coming in and delivering his best performances this season and Conner did that.
“Now it’s about elevating that and there’s a couple of things we’re working on in the pool to try to do that.”
A cap on support staff for the Paralympics means McMillan will have to watch the action from Japan at home in Aberdeen’s West End.
Will he be watching Morrison, and Shaw, perform, despite the unsociable times their races will be taking place?
“Absolutely – it’ll be middle of the night, up watching and hopefully able to communicate with the coaches and athletes out there,” McMillan said.
As for Morrison, what are his aims for his Paralympic Games debut?
The swimmer said: “My opinion is I’m just going there for the experience and to put the best version of me out there – not looking for medals, just the experience.”