The Irish Paralympic swim squad will be returning home to the Emerald Isle on Sunday evening (May 8th) with their heads held high after collecting two European silver medals, one bronze medal and a whopping 23 Personal Best (PB) times.
Teen sensation Nicole Turner will return as the toast of the county of Laois, and indeed her country, as she won two silver medals and one bronze medal, and also secured nine PB times over the course of the seven-day competition.
The 13-year-old student stunned viewers on Day 2 of the competition (May 2nd) when she took home silver in the 200m Individual Medley SM6 final in a PB time of 3.14.41.
“It feels amazing. To have a silver medal is great. I’m amazed! I thought I was fighting for bronze but silver is just amazing,” she said after her final.
Turner added another PB time to her collection on Day 3 in the 100m Freestyle S6, before going on to secure her second silver medal on Day 4 (Wednesday, May 4th) in the 100m Breaststroke SB6.
“After this morning’s heat I thought I was a bit off, but that swim was amazing,” she said afterwards. “I can’t think anything at all at the moment – I’m delighted and tired!”
Success did not stop there for her though, as she went on to PB on each of the last three days, in the 50m Freestyle S6, the 400m Freestyle S6 and on the last day, twice more in the 50m Butterfly S6 to secure a bronze medal.
“I feel really good, it’s been an amazing week for me and it’s great to win bronze on the last day is great. I was expecting PBs coming here, but to get three medals – I’m just ecstatic!”
Also making a big splash at the event was 14-year-old Barry McClements who was making his debut on the Irish senior squad, and he too bagged a fantastic six PB times out of seven events.
He secured these times in the 50m Freestyle S9, 100m Butterfly S9, the 200m Individual Medley SM9, the 100m Freestyle S9, the 100m Breaststroke SB8 and the 400m Freestyle S9.
“I’m really tired,” he said on the last day after finishing the heat for the 400m Freestyle S9. “I set a one-second PB there now, I was kind of hoping for more but I did my best.
“It’s been a hard week, but I think I did well, I did six PBs out of seven races. It feels great to be here, competing with people from all over is brilliant. I can’t wait for the next meet!”
Elsewhere, Castleknock swimmer Ailbhe Kelly was also flying the tricolour high, achieving five PBs over the course of the event, in the 100m Freestyle S8, the 200m Individual Medley SM8 and the 100m Backstroke S8. One of the highlights of these for her being the PB in the 100m Freestyle S8.
“I am so happy,” she said afterwards. “I really wanted to go under 1.19, I’ve been wanting to do it pretty much all year, and to do it this evening was incredible.”
Meanwhile, squad stalwarts Ellen Keane and Jonathan McGrath also swam extremely well during the week, with Keane achieving PBs in the 100m Backstroke S9, and McGrath with a PB in the 100m Breaststroke SB8.
Speaking after her final event on Friday, Keane said: “I came into this Championships with a bit of fatigue, but it was great race practise. Once college is over, I will be able to focus completely on swimming so I can’t wait for that. The support from home has been brilliant!”
Unfortunately for McGrath, he suffered disappointment at these Championships when he didn’t achieve the Minimum Qualifying Standard (MQS) time for Rio 2016 in the Men’s 400m Freestyle S8 Final, missing out when he finished in 4.54.56.
“The last few days have been difficult since the 400m Freestyle, but I haven’t given up,” he said. “I’ve kept fighting and fighting – the times may not be great, but I really, really tried. I’d like to thank everyone for all of their messages of support over the last few days, it really means a lot.”
Finally, Ratoath man James Scully also swam well in the 200m Freestyle S5 final on Tuesday, but this was to be the only swim for him in the Championships as he had to be checked out of the competition due to medical reasons.
Speaking afterwards, National Team Coach Jim Laverty stated: “I feel really delighted, it’s been a wonderful championships for the athletes especially the younger ones, Nicole, Ailbhe and Barry. To turn up here, two thirds of the way through the season and PB is a credit to all of them – I’m really, really impressed with their performance and their whole attitude towards the competition, they have been really focused, I’m delighted.”
“A Championships like this is important for preparing for Rio as it gives a snapshot of where everybody is. We’ve collected a lot of data and we will be using that to study their performances more over the coming months.”
The squad willl arrive at Dublin Airport, Terminal 1, on Sunday, May 8th at approximately 8.30pm All fans are asked to come down to welcome them home.
The Irish swim team is proudly sponsored by Allianz, an official sponsor of Paralympics Ireland.