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Aboyne girl overcomes illness to compete for Games gold medal

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A Deeside swimmer has been selected to compete in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer after overcoming asthma setbacks.

Rachel Masson, aged 18, from Aboyne was chosen to swim in the women’s 100m freestyle relay at the Games after achieving one of the best times in the Commonwealth Trials.

A keen and talented swimmer from a young age, Rachel overcame an illness-induced break from her sport in 2012 to be chosen to compete in the select team of four.

At the Commonwealth trials earlier this year, Rachel came third in her category, in which the top four swimmers go through to the Scotland team.

Rachel said: “I’m super excited about competing in the Games.”

A stage two competition at the newly opened Aberdeen Aquatics Centre last week offered Rachel the opportunity to compete in trials for the women’s 50m and 100m individual freestyle races too.

Rachel started swimming at an after school club but quickly moved on from that and was asked to swim for Upper Deeside in Aboyne at the age of just seven or eight.

It was at this stage that Rachel started to get involved in competitions.

She said: “When I started competing I was absolutely terrified. I remember my first competition - the sound of the starting gun made me cry!.”

At that time Rachel was being coached by Katie Gordon.

Rachel said: “She doesn’t coach anymore but she was amazing because she was also a physiotherapist so she did things like pilates with us. That was quite different but it really helped me with my swimming by making me more aware of my body.”

After next being coached by Rachel Green, Rachel Masson moved on to swim with South Aberdeenshire Swimming (SAS), where she was in the top squad. SAS is composed of four teams from Upper Deeside, Stonehaven, Banchory and Westhill.

Rachel still trains with Upper Deeside on Sundays, but her primary team is now SAS.

She said: “I like to come back to Upper Deeside because it’s where I started out.”

Two years ago Rachel’s swimming career was put on hold when she became very ill with asthma. After being admitted to Aboyne Hospital following a serious asthma attack, Rachel had to see a specialist chest doctor in Aberdeen for treatment.

“I was out of swimming for months with no exercise at all, which was quite a setback for me because I love going training.

“I basically had to start again, which was really difficult because I was in a really good place before.”

Despite the interruption to her training, Rachel succeeded in getting back on track.

She said: “I worked through it in the summer of 2012 while the London Olympics were on television. Afterwards my coach, Gary, asked everyone what they thought of the Olympics and I said ‘I want to be there’. That’s when my training really started for the Commonwealth Games.”

Rachel believes her time off with asthma has actually helped her get to where she is today. Last year saw her best performance times yet and with her Commonwealth selection it’s only getting better.

The day of the opening ceremony for the Glasgow Games, on July 23 2014, is also Rachel’s 19th birthday.

“When I found out that the opening ceremony was the same day as my birthday it was something driving me to get into the team. It will be a birthday I will never forget.

“I’m sure I’ll be celebrating but I’ll be having an early night because I have a race the next morning.”

In terms of going for gold, Rachel is keen to swim fast by executing her usual plan, despite having to take in the impressive and potentially overwhelming surroundings at the Games.

She said: “A medal would be fantastic but if not, I’m not too bothered because I know that the team is good enough with or without a medal.”

 

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