Wednesday 18 October 2017

Tearful Irish swimmer Fiona Doyle lashes out at 'cheats' after 'devastating' exit

Shane Ryan on his way to a national record in the 100m backstroke. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Shane Ryan on his way to a national record in the 100m backstroke. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Rarely has the emotional gulf between fulfilment and failure been better illustrated than in the contrasting emotions exhibited by the two Irish swimmers in action within 15 minutes of each other in the Aquatics Stadium yesterday.

Fiona Doyle was close to tears as she tried to come to grips with her elimination from the 100m breaststroke, whereas Shane Ryan's face broke into the biggest smile imaginable when I informed him in the mixed zone that he had reached the semi-final of the 100m backstroke.

Fiona Doyle finished last in her 100m breaststroke heat. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Fiona Doyle finished last in her 100m breaststroke heat. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

There was an added poignancy to Doyle's disappointment as her heat was won by controversial Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova, who had been widely expected to be banned from the Games after multiple drug offences.

In a bizarre turn, world swimming governing body FINA revealed last weekend that she would be allowed take part.

Read more: WATCH - American Lilly King 'wags the finger' and calls out at drug cheat rival Yuliya Efimova

The 24-year-old not only served a 16-month suspension for doping, she tested positive again this year for the now banned substance meldonium. The reigning world champion was the second fastest qualifier in the event.

Doyle accepted that having finished eighth and last in her heat in 1.07.58, she had little chance of advancing; in the event she was 21st fastest, five places away from a berth in the semi-final. But the presence of Efimova in her heat upset her.

"Cheaters are cheaters and FINA caved and it's not fair on the rest of the athletes. She has tested positive five times this year and she was got away with it," said the Limerick-born swimmer, who is a student at the University of Calgary in Canada.

"It is frustrating, the fact that FINA is going back on their word and the IOC is going back on their word. Who were we supposed to trust now? FINA say we a clean sport, but we're not (a clean sport).

"I swam a good time but I knew it was going to take my best or better to get through. I felt on top of the world and everything was going well.

"It is devastating to think that my Olympics is nearly over," added Doyle as she held back the tears.

Whereas she travelled across the Atlantic to bolster her swimming career, Philadelphia-born Ryan moved in the opposite direction to fulfil his ambition of swimming for Ireland at the Olympics.

His father Thomas is from Laois and for more than a year now Ryan has been living in a small house in a corner of the National Sports Campus at Abbotstown in order to fulfil his Irish allegiance.

He had a scary start to the day when due to the high winds which hit Rio yesterday he thought the big dome in the athletes village was going to blow down while he was having breakfast.

But once he hit the water Ryan was on form, reaching the half-way point in second place, and he held on to finish fourth in a new Irish record of 53.85, beating his existing record of 54.21 which he set at the European championships in May.

His time which was just one-hundredth of a second off his best ever time of 53.84 from the US Nationals in 2013 and was good enough to place him 14th overall, securing a spot in the semi-final

"I guess this means more TV time and it was an Irish record and I'm happy about that. I have moved up in the world a bit and now I can say I'm in the top 16 in the Olympics," said Ryan.

Video credit: RTE

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