Young Otter Benji making a big splash

Benji Cummings is making a real splash with the Otters

AN 11-year-old member of Riversdale Otters is proving that dedication reaps results after securing the qualifying time to reach the next competitive level with a golden double in Bangor.

At the Minors Gala, held in the Aurora Aquatic and Leisure Complex on Sunday, Benji Cummings took the gold medal in the 50 metres breaststroke in 43:57 seconds and completed the 100 metres freestyle in one minute, 19.05 seconds – a time that not only sealed another gold medal but also surpassed the qualifying time by almost two seconds.


His performance in the freestyle event stood out particularly, as last season that was a stroke he struggled with somewhat. However, rather than focus on his breastroke, which is his natural preference, he worked hard on improving his freestyle technique over the summer and he is now reaping the rewards for his hard work and dedication.

The Strabane Academy year eight pupil, who gets up between 5am and 5.30am on the mornings of his swim sessions at Riversdale Leisure Centre and in the 50 metre pool in Magherafelt, is only in his third season of competitive swimming, but his commited attitude is proving beneficial.

His rigorous training regime, which this week includes six swim sessions – two each on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – as well as strength and conditioning exercises and rugby practice, seems to be paying off.

Prior to recording those superb times at the Minors Gala, Benji excelled at the Ulster Schools’ Championships at the same venue where he swam the 50m breaststroke in 43:13 seconds, a time which saw him qualify for the Irish Minors Schools’ Championships in Dublin next year.

He also completed the 100m Individual Medley in one minute, 31:52 seconds and also represented Strabane Academy in the Group 5 heats where he attained Swim Ulster qualifying times in the 100 metre breaststroke (1:36:31) and 200 metres Individual Medley (3:15:78).

His results this year mean that he is now eligible to compete in Swim Ulster qualification galas, and depending on his performances there he could qualify for youth championships, division two events, and possibly even earn a try-out for the Ulster squads.

And while Benji is the driving force behind his own achievements, he is thankful for the help provided by the Riversdale Otters coaching team of Martina Cullen (head coach), Mickey Barr and Isobel McNulty, as well as the support of Niall McDonnell at Strabane Academy, and previously by David Canning at Strabane Controlled Primary School.


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