It IS going to be a busy period for rower Holly Nixon with European Championship and Olympic Games selection on the agenda for the Enniskillen woman.

Nixon had secured selection for the Olympics last year before it was postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that swept the world.

Indeed, within days of learning that she had booked her place on the GB team for the Tokyo Games, the Olympics were called off, and it means that the team must go through the selection process all over again.

Sealing that spot for Tokyo is obviously the big goal for the 27-year-old, but first there is the matter of earning a place on the team for the European Championships in Varese, Italy in April to worry about.

“We’ve had quite a nice training period since September and we were in Portugal in January, so we’ve come back now and we are now doing more crew boat stuff so that lets us know that everything is getting that little bit closer to being done, which is good.

“Internally, we are just testing now over the next four weeks or so because the Europeans are just around the corner at the beginning of April.

“We’re looking over the next few weeks to tie up our selection for the Europeans team, and that is a big step towards the Olympic selection as well.

“We are just pushing now for the beginning of March to get all that sorted out,” said Holly.

And Holly knows that earning selection for the Europeans would go some way to securing that dream Olympic spot.

‘The foundation’

“I think once we have picked our Europeans team, that is really going to be the foundation for the Olympic team with potentially one or two changes for the Games, but not likely to be much more than that,” she added.

Competition for one of those golden places on the Olympic team though is hot, with nine rowers battling it out for a maximum of six spots.

“In an ideal world, that would be the aim [Olympic selection] but we have a very competitive group at the moment.

“We have some new, younger athletes this season, and there are nine of us going for the four seats in the quad, which we have already qualified for the Olympics and then we are hoping to qualify a double at the Olympic qualifications in May.

“So, we have four seats at the moment, but we are hoping to have six seats by the time the Games comes around, and there are nine of us competing for those,” she added.

Elite athlete

As an elite athlete, Holly has been fortunate in that she has been able to train away during this lockdown period, although under Covid regulations.

“We are very lucky that the training centre has stayed open, but obviously it is still very strict in terms of training bubbles, and that makes logistics quite hard because you have to be in certain parts of the building at certain times.

“If we are in the gym past our time, we have to get out because we have to make it work for everyone.

“It’s just the new normal, I guess, where we wipe down all the equipment every day, and like everyone else we are wearing masks and using hand sanitiser.”

The Fermanagh woman has also had health issues to deal with in recent years.

In 2018, she was diagnosed with a bladder condition called Fowler Syndrome, but thankfully she now appears to have it under control.

“It has been a big challenge,” she said. “I’ve had a tough couple of years with it, but, touch wood, it is behaving at the moment!”

With many sporting events still being cancelled because of Covid-19, there may have been a worry about the Olympics falling by the wayside for a second successive year, but Nixon is confident that they will go ahead – and seeing events like the Australian Open going ahead further strengthens that belief.

“It looks very promising that even in the current climate, these competitions are going to get going ahead.

“It has been definitely more exciting over the last few weeks just seeing other sports like the Australian Open going ahead, because that’s making it much more promising.

“I would have been very, very disappointed if the Games were cancelled again, and essentially I would have had to decide whether to wait and try and go to Paris or whether I call it a day.

“It is looking very positive though at the moment, which I think in a way has given a lot of us a lift since Christmas,” she said.

However, she knows that this will be a very different Games to those previous.

“They are just going to be run very, very differently. You will probably have no crowds at them, and there are lots of rules already, like to fly in five days before your event and leave two days after your event, so it is not going to be a normal Olympics,” she acknowledged.

It will still be the Olympic Games though, and while Nixon knows there is still a long way to go, the dream is to be on that start line in the heats in Tokyo this Summer.

“We have got to wait and see but in an ideal world I get selected for the Olympics again – take two, after last year!

“But you can never be certain, and now in these times it is not just down to being selected, it is down to staying healthy.


“A couple of my team mates actually got Covid from going home for Christmas. A lot of people think that athletes are fit and healthy and it won’t affect them, but it actually wipes a lot of them out, to the point where some of them will actually be questioning whether they go the Games for that reason.

“You can never be certain until you are on the start line in an Olympic heat – in the ideal world I want to be there, but I have got to keep an eye on some other stuff as well,” stated Holly.