A new documentary is taking a deep dive in to the life and career of the first Hebridean swimmer to compete in the Commonwealth Games will air this month.

Produced by Sunset + Vine and airing on BBC ALBA, the programme follows the record-breaking athletic career of the professional swimmer, Kara Hanlon will be around 45 minutes long.

Titled Kara Hanlon: Dare to Dream, it will reveal all about the Hebridean swimmer’s life from her childhood growing up in Stornoway to training for the qualifiers for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

The now four-time British champion was inspired to take up the sport from a young age after learning to swim in her local community pool in Stornoway.

Kara's competitve swimming career began at age 14.Kara's competitve swimming career began at age 14. (Image: BBC)

Speaking in the documentary, Kara said: “I did a lot of other sports when I was younger like running, but swimming for me was the one that always stuck. I was taught to swim by some of the local lifeguards at the old Stornoway pool, and what I remember most was racing for badges that I could put on my swimsuit to show that I’d made it to 50m or to 100m.”

At the age of 14, Kara’s competitive swimming career took a major step forward after a chance meeting with DR Morrison, a prominent Lewis-based swim coach.

Kara said: “I didn’t want to go to cross-country one morning, and my mum said, okay, if you don’t go to cross country, go swimming instead. So off I went swimming and I bumped into DR and he basically asked me to be part of his group that he was developing for the Island Games.”


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Kara goes on to detail the sacrifices her family often had to make for her swimming development in terms of both financial cost and time: “There were a lot of times where my parents would have to take time off work to take me on the ferry over to the mainland, and I think they were just willing to support me through that and that just meant going to more and more competitions going up and up the levels.”

Kara, now 27, has since achieved top swimming accolades in her professional athletic career. Last year she became the fastest female breaststroker in Scottish history for both 50m at the 2023 Glasgow International Swim Meet, and 100m during the North District Open Championships in Aberdeen.

In 2022, Kara achieved her childhood dream by becoming the first ever swimmer from the Western Isles to represent Scotland at a Commonwealth Games when she competed at Birmingham 2022. Reaching the finals of the 50m and 100m Breaststroke events, Kara also swam the final of the 4x100m Women’s Medley Relay, helping her team to a 5th placed finish.

Talking about swimming, Kara says: “I think it kind of chose me. I feel like it was kind of my destined path. Breaking Scottish records is something that I'll always have, and I'll always cherish. And I have been the fastest woman in Scotland ever.”

Kara is now a four-time British champion.Kara is now a four-time British champion. (Image: BBC)

Fiona MacKenzie, commissioning editor at BBC ALBA, said: “From a 12.5m pool to competing in the qualifying rounds of the Olympic Games, Kara has gone from a small pond to a big pool. She is one of Scotland’s most decorated athletes, yet maintains a humble demeanour as she candidly opens up about her life growing up on Lewis in this new documentary.

“We can’t wait for BBC ALBA viewers to see what it takes to become a competitive swimmer and hopefully inspire the next generation of talent.”

Kara Hanlon: Dare to Dream will premiere on BBC ALBA on Wednesday 24 July at 9pm and on demand on BBC iPlayer (in Gaelic with English subtitles)