James Hollis on coming out of retirement for the Commonwealth Games

With a home Commonwealth Games just around the corner, we take a look at the athletes who will be competing for Team England this summer.

Team England’s James Hollis says the Commonwealth Games was too big of an opportunity to miss as he decided to come out of retirement to target the event in Birmingham.

The London 2012 Paralympian initially hung up his goggles in 2018 but upon hearing this summer’s Commonwealth Games featured an S10 event he couldn’t help but be tempted back into the pool.

He said: “The Commonwealth Games is something that I’ve never had the chance to do so to comeback for it was a massive motivational factor.

“I was looking at it and aiming at it from day one – it was always part of the plan.

“To get that box ticked and to get on the team and now to make it this close without any injuries or anything has been great.”

Hollis comes into the competition in good form, too, after rebuilding his speed after his lengthy absence.

He finished fifth at the Para-Swimming World Championships in the S10 100m Butterfly and is hopeful of improving again in front of a home crowd.

Hollis said: “I had a really great World Championships so holding onto that form will be good and I’m just really excited to race and see what I can bring.

“I’m still taking little steps back towards what my old personal best time was, so to get near that and potentially break that would be amazing.

“If I mange that and everything goes my way, there’s a chance of medal which would just be an amazing achievement for me but it’s all about achieving the best performance that I can.”

Swimming became my vehicle for competitiveness

Hollis has Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a genetic disorder that affects the bone and ligament strength.

He always loved sport but because of his condition he couldn’t take part in many of them but he could swim and it quickly became his true calling.

“I have a condition called Osteogenesis which meant I couldn’t go and play rugby or football for fear of injury, so my parents got me into swimming,” he said.

“I’m a very competitive person and I soon realised that I could compete if I put the work in.

“Whether that was county championships, regional championships as an able-bodied athlete or when I got myself classified, competing in the national championships.

“So swimming became the vehicle for my competitiveness and that just kept me engaged.

“I love a medal, I love a personal best and that’s brought me to where I am now.”

With Team England integrating their swimming and para-swimming teams into one, Hollis thinks these games could be a huge chance to grow para-sport as a whole.

He said: “I think to continue to grow para-sport and to give opportunities in para-sport is a massive motivating factor for myself.

“A home Games and a strong performance from the team will help people learning to swim, people with impairments looking to take up club swimming or even staff that want to get involved in swimming or para-swimming.

“I hope that these Games are a big motivating factor on their decision to get involved.”

‘We created our own little team’

Starting off at his local club along with his sister, Hollis was able to grow and develop in what became a tight-knit group of para-swimmers.

He explained: “So I was at one club until I was 18 and I was lucky enough to have a coach there that was willing enough to help me to open doors and to come with me to classifications.

“It was really lucky we had someone like that, my sister was a para-swimmer as well and we had enough para-swimmer that joined the club too so we almost created ourselves a little team.

“We worked together, went to competitions together – it was really exciting and it was all because the club gave us that support.”

Hollis also took the time to thank his first coach for teaching him the skills he needed to become successful.

He said: “Lee Richards was my first coach and he was just really empathetic.

“Both of us were willing to learn too so we kind of went on a journey together.

“We had this idea of learning and developing together to hopefully become the best so we worked really well together.

“I always took in all of his advice as he was going off and learning how the sessions impacted me and what I needed to improve on.”

After moving to the National Performance Centre, Hollis’s career really began to take off and he made his international debut at the 2011 European Championships in Berlin.

He said the move helped him take his swimming to the next level and gave him the important experience at big competitions.

“When I moved to Loughborough it was a big change going from a small club and into the university programme,” he said.

“My coach, Steve, at the time basically had to teach me the difference between being a club swimmer to being a professional athlete.

“It took a few years but I’m really grateful to them for giving me those experiences because it really helped me develop to get me to where I am.”

See Team England’s full swimming team here.

Photo credit Team England.