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Sevenoaks swimmer Eva Okaro will sample Commonwealth Games atmosphere as part of Team England Futures programme

Sevenoaks swimmer Eva Okaro already has a history of surprising people on the international circuit.

At only 14-years-old, the freestyle specialist won three medals at last summer's European Junior Swimming Championships in Rome and continues to showcase her talent on the national scene.

Sevenoaks swimmer Eva Okaro, second left, has been picked for the Team England Futures programme
Sevenoaks swimmer Eva Okaro, second left, has been picked for the Team England Futures programme

But Okaro was initially told that the European Championships would only be a development process for the young swimmer and that she wasn't expected to medal.

However, she proved everybody wrong.

"When I went to European Juniors last year everyone told me that I would just be going for the experience because I was still one of the youngest there," said Okaro, who has been selected to be part of the Team England Futures programme with Commonwealth Games England and SportsAid.

"They said I would not necessarily win anything, I might do well and get a personal best but I would not do really well.

"But then obviously getting into my first semi-final was really weird in the moment and it was shocking.

"Just knowing that I went there as the underdog and still managed to medal just showed me that there's opportunities everywhere and you just need to be in the moment and do as best as you can."

Going into the meet with a recent personal best time in the 100m freestyle, Okaro didn't think it could get any better until she suddenly started to drop time in Rome.

She added: "In the range of two months I dropped two and a half seconds on my 100m time and I thought that was really good.

"I thought that would be a fluke but then we did the 100 final and I did it again and I went first so now the time is on the rankings."

The Team England Futures programme will see more than 1,000 talented young athletes and aspiring support staff given the opportunity to attend the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, watch live sporting action and take a first-hand look behind the scenes.

The programme seeks to better prepare athletes to deliver medal-winning performances as either Team England, Team GB or ParalympicsGB debutants at future Games, while also giving support staff a first-hand look at the opportunities they could be presented with, as well as challenges they may face, at a multi-sport competition.

With so much talent brewing at such a young age, Okaro has already mastered the art of keeping calm and performing when it's needed.

She said: "Personally I don't think I get nervous but I don't know if that's me not being nervous at all or trying to supress how I feel.

"Behind the blocks or in marshalling I'm always really calm and I talk to people around me. I don't know if that's a coping mechanism but it works quite well for me.

"I'm driven by the audience. So, if I know that my coach, friends and family are watching me then it makes me want to do well.

"There's [an] Olympics in two years which is obviously a reach but if I keep going the way that I am I think that's definitely something I could do. And obviously Commonwealth's two years after that as well."

Commonwealth Games England has appointed SportsAid to lead on the development, management and operational delivery of Team England Futures at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. You can find out more about the programme by visiting https://www.sportsaid.org.uk/partnerships/team-england-futures/

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