Ireland’s ultra-talented swimming team got their 2020 Paralympics off to a flying start as Nicole Turner and Roisin Ni Riain both made finals with their first swims and Barry McClements was just one place short of joining them.
All three swam personal bests and Limerick 16-year-old Ni Riain really underlined what an exciting prospect she is by finishing third in her S13 100m butterfly heat on her Paralympic debut.
Her time of 1:08.18 was almost three seconds faster than her personal best but racing in the first of three heats meant she faced an anxious wait to see if she would get through and was thrilled to take the last spot for this morning’s final (11:38am irish time).
“I’m not going to lie, I was nervous and 100m Butterfly is not my best event so to make the final and with a big PB, I’m delighted. It’s pretty cool to be in a final,” the Drombanna schoolgirl said.
As a world bronze medallist, expectations always follow experienced Portarlington star Turner and she lived up to them with a PB of 35:47 seconds when fifth in her S6 50m Freestyle heat, also bagging the eighth spot for this morning’s final (10:46am Irish time).
“50m Freestyle is not my main event so I’m racing it to just get the swim in, get the technique right and hopefully do a PB and progress to the final and that’s what I did so I’m really happy,” Turner said.
“It’s been a long time coming just to get to race again, that really dusted off the cobwebs and we’re all just so grateful to get this chance to compete.”
Down teenager McClements (19) was the first of the entire Irish team into action and set a brilliant tone for his teammates by pulling out a personal best of 4:27.11 when finishing fifth in his S9 400m freestyle heat..
That knocked over a second and a half off his PB and he was just one place short of making the final.
“I knew from last night that I was going to be the first Irish Paralympian up, so I’m really happy I set the tone of the competition for us with a PB,” he said.
“I have three more events to come and my favourite, the 100m butterfly, is the last, so the aim is to get PBs in all of them and whatever comes with it is a bonus really.”
Irish qualified to swimming finals today
10:46am (Irish time) – Nicole Turner, S6 50m Final
11:38am (Irish time) – Roisin Ni Riain, S13 100m Butterfly final.