It proved to be a prosperous couple of days for some of Ireland’s top female swimmers at last week’s National Team Trials for 2021.The National Aquatic Centre played host to five days of exciting trials which saw Ireland’s best swimmers given the opportunity to meet qualification standards for the 2021 International Summer Meets including the Tokyo 2021 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The opening day of action saw the prolific Mona McSharry make history as she went under the FINA A Olympic Consideration Time(OCT) to qualify for the Tokyo Games in record time. The 21 year old’s lifetime best in the 100m breaststroke was just three hundredths of a second outside of the Olympic Qualifying time heading into last week’s meet and Tuesday’s exploits proved memorable for McSharry. She began by posting a time of 1.06.97 in Tuesday morning’s heat, swimming in memorable fashion to secure her place at the forthcoming Olympic Games. The Sligo woman’s rapid time meant she became Ireland’s first female swimmer to break 1.07 for the 100m breaststroke in a long course pool. McSharry continued her blistering form into the evening’s first finals session as she knocked a further .68 off her time with a prolific 1:06.29 finish. A historical day for the Marlins Swimming Club and Tennessee University athlete.
Mona McSharry set an Irish record and a FINA A Consideration Times (OCT) for the Olympics in the 100m breaststroke at the Irish National Team Trials this morning. pic.twitter.com/iYC5EDVoPR
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) April 20, 2021
There was good excitement heading into Wednesday’s trials following on from a busy day one. The morning heats saw Templeogue’s Ellen Walshe take to the pool in what was her first competitive race since February 2020. Having been the first Irish woman under the 1 minute mark for the 100m Butterfly in January of 2020, Walshe won the heat as she delivered an impressive 1:00.08 finish– just marginally off her Irish Record time of 59.54.
This was followed by the Women’s 100m Freestyle heats which saw Victoria Catterson and Erin Riordan clash. It proved a titanic battle with Ards’ Catterson making it home first in 56.89 whilst National Centre Dublin and UCD’s Erin Riordan posted a best time of 56.93 for second place meaning just .04 separated them going into Wednesday evening’s semi-final.
It proved to be a nerve wracking evening with Danielle Hill coming just .09 shy of the Olympic standard of 1:00.25 in the 100m backstroke. Hill had swam excellently on Tuesday, setting a new Irish Senior Record of 1:00.48– knocking .42 off her previous best of 1:00.90. Despite knocking a further .14 off her time in Wednesday evening’s finals, Larne’s Hill will have to work towards her next shot in June.
Danielle Hill sets a new Irish record in the 100m backstroke, but just misses out on an Olympic qualifying time. pic.twitter.com/x55ruUDU5i
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) April 21, 2021
Wednesday evening also saw Victoria Catterson break her first Irish Senior Record in the 100m Freestyle Final. The 20 year old swimmer clocked an impressive 55.44 knocking over half a second off Hill’s 2019 record of 56.01 in doing so. The Ards’ swimmer now puts herself in contention for Ireland’s 4x100m Medley Relay that will compete at the European Championships in May, where a world ranking of up to 16 would mean a place for the team at the Tokyo Games. Still fresh from Paralympic classification the Friday previous, Roisin Ni Riain got her meet underway with a swim of 1:02.59 in that same 100m Freestyle.
Thursday’s day three of trials saw Danielle Hill’s tantalising form continue as she broke her third record of the meet with a 55.33 second finish in the 100m freestyle final. In doing so Hill reclaimed the record which had been taken from her just 24 hours previous by Ard’s Victoria Catterson’s 55.44 semi final finish. Given the eye-catching performances from Wednesday evening’s Freestyle Final, the consideration time for the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay for European Championships in Budapest, Hungary in May was deservingly met.
Thursday also brought about neat times in the first semi-final of the 200m Individual Medley, with a personal best from Ellen Keane (2:39.36), as well as Nicole Turner (3:09.04) and Roisin Ni Riain (2:33.82) all finishing under the Minimum Qualification Standard (MQS) for the Paralympic Games this Summer.
Friday saw Mona McSharry’s red-hot form continue as the 21 year old shone once again as she shaved over a second off her Irish Record in the 200m Breaststroke with a time of 2:25:92– leaving her just four tenths of a second from the OQT as she headed into her return to the pool that afternoon, which unfortunately wasn’t to be for McSharry; but take nothing away from her terrific exploits.
Danielle Hill set a new 50m freestyle record and her fourth Irish Senior record of the meet with a 25.01 finish, leaving her just .42 away from the Tokyo 2021 time as she turned her focus to Saturday night’s finale.
Saturday proved much anticipated for the swimmers, their families and supporters as the event neared it’s conclusion. The final day kicked off with Nicole Turner opening the final morning of racing in the Para 50m Butterfly clocking 38.44 and well inside the Paralympic Games Minimum Qualification Time of 42.49. Turner had already been under the time as well as the 100m Breaststroke and 200m Individual Medley standards and so she will be delighted with her form shown last week.
Victoria Catterson capped off a fantastic week to go number three all time in the women’s 200m Freestyle in Ireland. Catterson spoke about the confidence this gave her and her goal of becoming the second ever Irish female to swim under two minutes in this event. A solid week’s swimming from Danielle Hill was brought to an end when she clocked 25.29, just one tenth of a second off the new Irish Record she had set the night previous of 25.19.
Reflecting back on what was an enjoyable week of swimming, many of the nation’s top female swimmers will be happy with their hard work–all of the good work which was made more rewarding by the fact the athletes had to prepare in the midst of a pandemic. For all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls who took part in last week’s meet, there will be mixed emotions. Some will move forward ecstatically with Tokyo secured, whilst some will reflect on coming so very close, looking at where the slightest improvements in their next day out can lead to the greatest reward. All in all, our nation’s top female swimmers have all done themselves extremely proud and we look forward to seeing you all in the pool again very soon.
Next up Team Ireland will be racing in May attempting to qualify relays for the Olympic Games, while athletes will have an opportunity to qualify for their individual events in June.