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Sevenoaks’ Eva Okaro keen not to forget the importance of results as she prepares for Paris as first black woman to swim in the pool for Team GB at an Olympic Games

Trailblazer Eva Okaro will not be defined as Team GB’s first black female swimmer in the pool.

The 17-year-old from Sevenoaks will make history when she competes at the Paris 2024 Olympics this summer and hopes her presence on the world’s biggest swimming stage can inspire more diversity in the sport.

Sevenoaks' Eva Okaro wants to make headlines for her sporting prowess this summer. Picture: Team GB
Sevenoaks' Eva Okaro wants to make headlines for her sporting prowess this summer. Picture: Team GB

But Okaro is determined to pick up headlines for her exploits in the pool rather than who she is or what she looks like.

“It’s an honour to be in that position,” she said. “I also think I am in a good position now to inspire and encourage young black swimmers to get into swimming and to enjoy it and know that they can make it as far as they want to.

“I don’t think anyone refers to me as ‘the black swimmer’. I feel like I am already at that stage.

“It is nice to be in the position where you know you can change people’s views or lives or swimming.”

Okaro is one of more than 1,000 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full-time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering medical support - vital for her pathway to the Paris 2024 Games.

Alongside being an inspiration, Okaro’s focus is on making her debut Games one to remember.

She is the youngest member of Team GB’s swimming squad and could be forgiven for being overwhelmed by the enormity of the Olympics. But Okaro is hoping to reduce the La Defense Arena down to the size of her home pool in Sevenoaks if she needs to calm any starting-block nerves.

She added: “I feel like because I have been picked for the team, I know I am up there with other people that are older than me.

“I feel like it is more getting stuck in, rather than stressing about being younger than anyone else. It is more being part of the team and the experience.

“It is probably to think of it as any other meet. Obviously, it is the Olympics, it is the top of the top, but if you think of it as the pool you always swim in every year at nationals, you will race your best and be in that mental space where you are comfortable.

“I like to think that I don’t get stressed before a race or before a big meet, but I think I do. I kind of keep it really calm and collected, speak to people - I am quite a talkative person - and I try to keep my cool behind the block and on race day. That works for me.

“I think I can gain a lot from speaking to people that have been to multiple Olympics, even people that are here for the first time like me.

“It is more a learning curve, and I haven’t spent loads of time with people on the team yet, so there is more of that to come.”

Making your Olympic debut would be enough for any athlete to contend with, never mind one making history like Okaro. But she also has her education to deal with alongside her swimming, insisting hitting the books keeps her grounded ahead of a summer to remember.

She added: “I think the fact that I am in school as well, that has helped me break it up a bit.

“School, swimming, social time, it is all integrated. I love swimming, friends, school and going out and stuff. It has kept it easy for me.”

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