Even though they knew she had rich promise, Forest Town swimmer Hollie-Mae Dove has shocked her parents by topping the British rankings for the 12-year-old girls’ 100m long course breaststroke at the age of 11.
The Brunts Academy pupil, who is 12 this week, had only gone to the Derventio Excel open meet to gain some long course experience after having qualified for the Midlands Championships 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke in June.
But the Mansfield Swimming Club starlet surpassed all expectations.
“It is still sinking in,” said mum Suman. “She has been a good breaststroker since a young age anyway.
“We knew she was good. We just didn’t realise how good. But when she saw what she had achieved it was wow.”
At the Derventio she swam in four races and gained new long course PBs in all four races.
Hollie-Mae won bronze in the 50m breast stroke with a time of 39:42 and then a gold for her 200m breaststroke with a new time of 3:05:01.
Later in the day she then went on to swim in the 50m freestyle in a time of 33:06, gaining her third PB.
The following day she went back and swam in the 100m breaststroke and won gold with an outstanding time of 1:21:83, taking her top of the British rankings.
Just to prove it was no fluke, the following week in the County Championships’ opening weekend, Hollie-Mae won gold in the girls’ 11/12 years 50m and 200m breast.
However, mum Suman and dad Jason are keeping their feet on the ground over her success.
“We are not getting carried away with it and we know she needs to stay up there when the qualifying window comes up for the nationals,” said Suman.
“But it has given us a bit of insight into where she is going with it. We will take her to open meetings and not miss an opportunity.
“She loves it and, while ever she is enjoying it, we will take her to training and meetings. She is very focused.
“We have always taken her swimming since she was three months old. I didn’t have swimming lessons when I was a child and only learned to swim 16 years ago.
“So it was a big thing for my children. I wanted them to be able to learn young and they have always been water babies.
“When she was younger Hollie-Mae did dancing and gymnastics, but then she didn’t want to go any more. We said what about a swimming club and she has been going ever since.
Hollie-Mae’s sister Libby (9) is also a member at Mansfield Swimming Club, where Hollie-Mae has been under the watchful eyes of head coach Barry Tindall, Grahame Hempsall, David O’ Keefe, and Marie Sharrocks since joining at the age of six.
She has now progressed into the Nova Centurion development squad since July, where she is being coached by Glenn Smith and Pauline Gourley.
“She is in the transition period with Nova at the moment and swimming with them three times a week,” said Suman. “It is quite intense as she needs to be broken in, then hopefully she will move up to the B squad and will be swimming almost every day.”
Sister Libby also joined Mansfield Swimming Club at the age of five, but has been hampered over the last year after breaking her ankle last year in May and needing it plastered twice.
However, she has achieved four county times for this year’s County Championships, competing in the 10-year-old age group, after just four months back in water.
“As a mum, I do feel lucky they both enjoy and love the same sport,” said Suman.
Away from the pool, Hollie-Mae is a member of 1st Forest Town Scout Group, where she started at the age of five as a Beaver, progressing through the Cubs, of which sister Libby is also a member.