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Record breaking University of Stirling swimmer on track for first Worlds

15 June 2015
Danielle Joyce celebrating yet another good swim. Photo: James Joyce

Danielle Joyce celebrating yet another good swim. Photo: James Joyce

University of Stirling BSc Sport & Exercise Science student Danielle Joyce is on track for her first World Deaf Swimming Championships in Texas this August after breaking her ninth world record last month.

Eighteen year old Danielle, from Stevenston in North Ayrshire, set a new world record of 31.11 seconds for the S15 (hearing impaired) category at Edinburgh’s Royal Commonwealth Pool.  She now holds all world short course backstroke records and two long course records.  

“My coaches told me not to expect any big improvements at this time of the year because I’m adapting to a new programme and new training,” said Danielle, who won two golds at last year’s European Championships and is excited about her first  World Championships.

“But I feel I have made some big improvements and I’m on track for the Worlds. I’m slightly nervous but because the Europeans went so well last year I know I’ll handle the pressure. It’s more the racing in the heat that I’m worried about and obviously being backstroke the sun will be shining right in my face, but I think I‘ll be ok.”

Danielle was born with a moderate hearing loss which deteriorated badly from age 12. She is now severely deaf in one ear and profoundly deaf in the other. It poses several challenges, not least how Danielle communicates with her coaches Ben Higson and Steve Tigg. But they are overcoming it by a combination of lip reading and sign language. There is also the less obvious drawback of not being able to benefit from the sound of a roaring crowd .

But she is thriving, not only in deaf events, but in mainstream competitions. Racing for the University of Stirling in the recent British Universities Championships she finished sixth in the 50m freestyle.

A multi talented sprinter in butterfly, freestyle and backstroke, 6’4” Danielle is still growing and likely to be well into her twenties before she reaches her peak and in a position to achieve her greatest ambitions.  

“I want to improve my mainstream more than my deaf swimming because I think I have a lot of potential there and I’m working my way up the rankings,” she said.

“I’m in the top 15 for categories in Scotland and my coaches are trying to get me into the top 25 in Britain.

“One of my long term goals is to compete in the Commonwealth Games. To achieve that would be amazing and if I did that I would look towards the Olympic Games.

Stirling first year Danielle, is one of 150 students to be supported by Winning Students, Scotland’s national sports scholarships programme for student athletes. Through the programme she receives funding support and the academic flexibility required to perform at the highest level in sport and studies.

The University of Stirling is one of 17 universities, alongside 14 Scottish colleges, which form the Winning Students network. Students at network colleges and universities benefit from a dedicated co-ordinator to ensure they can balance their studies and sport effectively.

“The University are very understanding,” said Danielle. “Last year I missed a lot of compulsory days so I could compete for the University. But the lecturers put a lot of the slides up so I could catch up and I passed my first year exams with their help.

“Winning Students helps a lot because deaf sport doesn’t get any funding. Their support helps me fund trips and helps me focus on training more and takes my mind off worrying about how to find money to pay for it.”