Swimmer Siobhan-Marie O'Connor on being a role model and missing Sky Scholarships

By Mark Ashenden

Last Updated: 14/03/2019, 10:59 GMT

Siobhan Marie-O'Connor
Image: Siobhan-Marie O'Connor says part of her job is being a role model

A teenager in the spotlight at London 2012, six Commonwealth medals in 2014, a silver at the Rio Games, fighting colitis and overcoming post-Olympic blues and poor form.

Apart from driving on a motorway, there seems to be little that fazes former Scholar Siobhan-Marie O'Connor who admits to having her mojo back after a challenging few months that followed her stunning silver at Rio 2016.

So what has helped to reignite the 23-year-old's love affair with the pool and why the Sky Sports Scholarship continues to be a major force in her life.....

"It took me a while to understand what I really wanted in swimming.

From London 2012 to Rio four years later I was just following the path and I felt I could get a medal. I worked hard and I had the talent but now I've realised I want to do it for me and see where it takes me.

After the highs of Brazil, I had a very tricky year and I wasn't myself - it was a very weird feeling. I had the goal in my mind for so long and it was amazing but you then feel quite empty and that was hard to deal with. I asked myself if I wanted to carry on.

Siobhan-Marie O'Connor

I love swimming and the opportunities and memories it creates and I'm going to make sure I give it everything and do it right for Tokyo in 2022. I'm just delighted to have my mojo back and come out the other side.

Being a Scholar gave me huge confidence knowing Sky were behind me and I knew I could ring my mentor - head of scholarships Tony Lester - if I was stressed. Having that advice and outside perspective in the lead-up to Rio was amazing.

I'd never done as much media as I did before and after Rio and it stressed me out and I was worried how I came across.

All the media training and support I got as a Scholar helped me so much and it didn't become a negative distraction as all the hype built. Thankfully it didn't faze me. Sky gave me that belief.

I really miss being a Scholar though. I still talk to the other Scholars but you don't really appreciate how amazing it is until you finish. There were so many things - even just coming into Sky and seeing a huge picture of myself that all the cool people would have walked past in reception was just crazy.

It was also just being in contact with everyone, having all that support and when I did well sharing those successes at Sky. I also had work experience there, I was on Sky Sports News frequently and Sky News and you look back at all these fabulous experiences and all the opportunities and they are all great memories and I'm so grateful.

But it's not just about what we did in sport - they care about you as people. Tony Lester and I still speak at every major competition. It's great to still have that relationship. I really came out of my shell during my Scholarship.

I did some media recently and I realised I had become so much more comfortable and it was all down to everything I had done as a Scholar. These things stick with you. Media and doing interviews is a huge part of what we do though.

Training and competing will always be top priority and I can understand the reluctance or shyness when it comes to dealing with the media and sometimes you just don't want to do it, but when you're at a certain level, people want to know your story and take an interest in your journey.

They want to see you progress. A great thing I learned was that you didn't have to talk about anything you were uncomfortable with - something personal or an injury perhaps.

When you're a young fan and you look up to people doing the sport you love, you want to know about them. Part of our job is being a role model whether we like it or not. We should try and give back because we are inspiring the next generation.

Siobhan-Marie O'Connor
Image: O'Connor received Sky financial and developmental support after London 2012

When I was little I was watching Becky Adlington and there are now young swimmers watching me. It's important to share your journey and story. I do understand it is hard sometimes to come out of your shell, but we are trying to leave a legacy.

With Tokyo closing in, it is important the Scholars maximise every opportunity. Training comes first 100 per cent but with all the opportunities at Sky, if you don't say yes then you will regret it.

When you're training for an Olympics it's full-on but if there's any time they can visit Sky they should do - they will not have any regrets. They have to grasp everything because it is such a fantastic time and it just goes in a flash.

The Scholarship is like a family and once you've been part of it you're not forgotten and all these skills and friends you have for life.