As the sun set on two days of swimming competitions at the NatWest Island Games in Gibraltar, Kara Hanlon already has a hat-trick of medals in her swim bag.
The 22-year-old has also laid waste to two Island Games records further scratching her name into the record books and fabric of these prestigious games.
Kara Hanlon is more than just a swimmer or a member of the Western Isles Island Games Association squad. She is an inspiration, a poster child of how hard work, dedication and natural talent can breed massive success and she is spearheading and inspiring an entire generation of Hebridean swimmers.
Already in her locker are gold gongs for the 50m and 200m breaststroke with both events having their records smashed - records with times already set by Hurrican Hanlon in the past.
And she also has a silver after missing out on a third gold in the 200m individual medley by just 0.06 of a second. Kara’s famously powerful breaststroke saw her haul back a deficit from the opening strokes of the medley from eighth place to lead within 50m of her incredible breaststroke.
Then the race for gold came down to a 50m front crawl sprint but after two days of gruelling races, gold medal winning swims and record breaking efforts she admits her legs gave way at the death.
“My legs were feeling it in the 50m freestyle at the end of the medley but I gave it my all,” Hanlon told the Gazette with her trademark smile and warm nature.
“I think I gave myself just a little bit too much to do going into the breaststroke and my legs took the brunt of that. I knew I was ahead by the touch of the 50m breaststroke but my legs gave way slightly in the final 5m but you know what - you win some you lose some and there are two days of swimming to go.”
Kara’s week began with a powerful charge to glory in the 50m breaststroke but when she hit the pool for her final she felt the weight of expectation slip beneath the water with her as the watching Western Isles support leaned on her to bring home our first medal of the 2019 Games.
“To be honest I was feeling very nervous because it was my first final and also because we (the Western Isles) didn’t have any medals on the board yet,” she confessed.
“The whole of the team was looking to me to get this first medal so to manage to do that was so good.
“I went slower in the final than I did in the morning heat. I was so pleased with the morning swim as I broke the Island Games record I set myself two years ago, so in the final it was just about getting the job done.
“I was aware of Laura who came second but I knew coming off the turn I was well placed, so it was just a case of going for it and seeing what happens. The 50m is just a splash and dash. It’s so short and sweet.”
Tuesday was an even busier day for Kara who competed in six different races in a gruelling schedule for anyone, but by the end of play she had a gold, a silver, a Games record and had been part of a Western Isles relay team in the final with her teenage team mates.
“It was such a busy day with six races, so I’m pretty tired and I’m feeling it in my legs just now,” she told the Gazette poolside in Gibraltar.
“I was so pleased to win the 200m again and by the 50m mark I knew I had a chance to go for the record. It was my own record from a few years ago, so to break it by three seconds is really rewarding and I’m ecstatic.
“The relay was last but they are always such fun and being able to team with your team mates gives you a lift and I was well up for it for the girls who all pulled great swims out of the bag.
“I have to give a special mention to Mairi who is just 15 and was sixth in a final today and set back to back PB’s.
“She was brilliant and also on Monday we had Isla in a final for the first time, which is amazing and you can’t ask for better than making finals and setting new PBs.”
Kara is still just 22 and has her eyes trained on even higher goals, such as the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics and has medalled at three consecutive Island Games and topped the podium at Scottish and British levels, there is literally nothing she shouldn’t be aiming for in her swimming costume.
When she hits the water she is transformed to something like Wonder Woman in a swim cap and the bad news for the rest of the Island Games swimmers is she still has the 100m breaststroke event to come and I would bet my last dollar she will be there, or thereabouts, when the gongs are dished out and we will have another four minute rendition of the Bays of Harris before the week is out.