KNUTSFORD Vikings head coach Phil James is hoping Tom O’Brien is forging a path that others can follow.

The 12-year-old swimmer has been selected for the 2020 England Talent Regional Development Programme.

“Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, this year’s regional championships were cancelled,” said Phil.

“Tom was one of 15 Vikings swimmers due to compete at the championships.

“I’m sure he would have been in the mix for finals and medals had he actually been able to compete.

“While this recognition may not fully compensate Tom for the lost opportunity of competing on the bigger stage, it is fantastic for both Tom and the club that his talent, ability and hard work have been rewarded with this selection.”

Now the hope is that Tom, a Year 8 student at Knutsford Academy, will be able to further improve his swimming thanks to this fresh opportunity.

“Tom will join some of the best swimmers in the north west on the programme and I am sure he will represent the Vikings with great pride and distinction,” said Phil.

“Everyone at the Vikings is very proud of Tom’s achievements.

“We hope that Tom’s exploits will inspire both our current crop of swimmers and the next generation waiting in the wings.”

Tom, who once beat GB swimming star Adam Peaty in a handicap race, has been a Vikings member since he was five.

He has progressed from swimming internal galas, to open galas in the north west and also racing in a Vikings team in the Peaks and Plains series, and later in Arena League.

He was picked for the County Development Day last year following a great county championships, taking gold in the 50m breaststroke, and now for the regional development programme.

Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the event this time will be online rather than at a series of swim camps.

He will be among a group of 21 boys who will benefit from a number of modules, with Max Litchfield (GB swimmer and 400m IM Olympic finalist) providing the benefit of his invaluable experience.

Subjects such as strength and conditioning, nutrition, mental attitude and swimming skills will all be covered.

Tom is described by Phil as being ‘super proud’ of being a Viking and the progress he has made since first being a part of the Vikings Learn to Swim scheme in 2013.