When the mum of a current Isle of Man Swimming Club member and teaching assistant heard about the ‘Little People, Big Dream’ topic of her Year 4 class, her thoughts immediately turned to two Manx sporting superstars.

One conversation later with national head coach Lee Holland and the result was a visit by Commonwealth Games swimmers and multiple times Island Games gold medallists Laura Kinley and Joel Watterson to talk to the class at Ashley Hill School.

Joel was one of the stars of the swimming at the 2023 Island Games in Guernsey, bagging five golds as well as a silver and two bronze medals. He also swam for the island at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Laura has probably lost count of the number of Island Games medals in her trophy cabinet and has competed in a remarkable three Commonwealth Games - including the 2018 Gold Coast games in Brisbane, Australia where she made the 50m breaststroke final.

Laura and Joel are both near the top end of the British rankings, including Laura’s 11th place ranking over 50 metres breaststroke, and Joel’s top-20 ranking for 100m freestyle.

Joel and Laura gave a talk to the class about the highs and lows of their swimming careers and the experiences swimming has given them. This was followed by a very entertaining and open question and answer session; and then the children got to try on the pair’s medals and have their photos taken with them.

It’s possible that in that class is an athlete who will compete at the Island Games or Commonwealth Games in 10 or so years’ time: school visits by the inspirational Laura Kinley tend to have this effect.

Current island swimmer Jack Burgess recalled that Laura spoke to his school on her return from her first Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, and this inspired the then eight-year-old Burgess so much that he took up swimming. Fast forward nearly 10 years and Burgess represented the Isle of Man at the Island Games in 2023.