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US swimmers make a big splash during visit to Temple Street

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Jake Naughton plays chess with Mary Killman and Michelle
Moore at Temple Street Children's Hospital in Dublin yesterday

Jake Naughton plays chess with Mary Killman and Michelle Moore at Temple Street Children's Hospital in Dublin yesterday

Lilly Morris (seven months) with Morgan Feuille and
Michelle Theriault at the hospital. Photo: Frank McGrath

Lilly Morris (seven months) with Morgan Feuille and Michelle Theriault at the hospital. Photo: Frank McGrath

Ronan Coughlan chats with US swimmer Olivia Morgan at
Temple Street Children's Hospital yesterday. Photo: Frank McGrath

Ronan Coughlan chats with US swimmer Olivia Morgan at Temple Street Children's Hospital yesterday. Photo: Frank McGrath

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Jake Naughton plays chess with Mary Killman and Michelle Moore at Temple Street Children's Hospital in Dublin yesterday

THEY might be America's finest synchronised swimmers but yesterday they were no match for a 13-year-old chess shark named Jake Naughton.

The American squad took some time out from their gruelling Olympic training schedule to meet the patients and staff of Temple Street Children's Hospital in Dublin.

The girls are here as they have chosen the National Aquatic Centre in Abbotstown as their pre-Olympic training base for the London Olympics.

Dressed in identical red kits, the 10 teenage swimmers brought some cheer to the intensive care unit, neo-natal and renal wards at Temple Street yesterday.

There they met a number of children, including chess master Jake Naughton, who is awaiting a kidney transplant.

But the girls proved no match for the teenager from Rathangan in Co Wexford.

With two effortless moves, he defeated Michelle Moore from Indianapolis, who was left stunned at the speed of her defeat.

"How did that happen?" she joked after Jake's check-mate move.

Ronan Coughlan from Newport in Co Tipperary was also delighted to meet the girls.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the 16-year-old, who is also awaiting a kidney transplant, attends second-level school as normal.

But for the rest of the week he takes classes at the hospital school where he completed his Junior Certificate last year.

"I did my Junior Cert last summer and I sat three or four of the exams in Temple Street. The hospital school organised it, so I didn't miss any of my exams," he explained.

Teammates Michelle Theriault and Morgan Feuille took a shine to seven-month-old Lilly Morris, who was born with part of her bowel on the outside of her body.

Successful

Thankfully Lilly was returning home to Monaghan with her mum yesterday after undergoing successful surgery.

The US squad is based in Dublin to train for a pre-Olympic tournament in London on April 18.

The US has yet to qualify for the games in London but is confident about doing so, given its history in the event.

America has won five gold and numerous silver and bronze medals since synchronised swimming became an official Olympic sport in 1984.

The last time a US synchronised team won Olympic medal was in 2004, when they took home two bronze medals for team and duet events.

They will use the National Aquatic Centre as a pre-Olympic training base camp in July and also as a training base throughout the Olympics in August.

Sandra Mahoney, national team director, said: "We checked out all the alternative options prior to London and have concluded that the best place for us is the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin."

Gigi Grizanti, national team co-ordinator, looks forward to promoting both the National Aquatic Centre and the sport of synchronised swimming through appearances by the Olympic Squad, which will be open to the public.

On Saturday it is hoped that more than 2,000 people will see them in action at a charity show in aid of Temple Street at the National Aquatic Centre.

Tickets are €5 from the National Aquatic Centre.

Irish Independent