Bronze queen Nocher takes major medal in record time
MELANIE NOCHER joined a select band of Irish swimmers when she claimed a bronze medal in the 200m backstroke final at the European Short Course Championships in Szczecin, Poland yesterday.
Northener Nocher became only the fifth Irish swimmer to win a major senior medal, following in the slipstream of Gary O'Toole, Michelle Smith, Andrew Bree and Grainne Murphy.
Ranked third heading into the morning heats, Nocher produced a great performance to set a new Irish senior record of 2:05.00, the second best heat time, and then went even faster in the final with a bronze medal-winning time of 2:04.29.
Nocher had trailed back in sixth place after the first 50 metres but then came back with the second-fastest second 50m to move up into third, and she remained there to the end.
Ukraine's Daryna Zevina won gold in a new championship record time of 2:02.25, with silver going to Spaniard Duane Da Rocha Marce in 2:03.32.
Nocher (23) said: "I can hardly put into words what this means to me. I have worked so hard to get to this position. Not many Irish swimmers have medalled at a major championships, I'm just delighted.
"I knew I had a chance of a medal going into the final and I just had to make sure that I swam my race, and that's what I did.
"I'm not just pleased for myself, but everyone in Swim Ireland. The whole set-up has become like a family -- the physios, the managers, everyone involved.
"This week has been one of the best weeks ever for Irish swimming, with everyone doing personal bests. Irish swimming is on the up."
Swim Ireland performance director Peter Banks hailed Nocher's achievement.
"This is a great performance by Melanie, and is a culmination of many months of hard work in training," he said.
"It also acts as the perfect springboard as she strives for Olympic qualification in the coming months."
Five other Irish swimmers also posted new personal best times -- Nicholas Quinn (2:15.62) and Dan Sweeney (2:16.25) in the 200m breaststroke; Bethany Carson in the 200m freestyle (1:59.07); Jane Roberts in the 200m backstroke (2:14.51) and Shani Stallard in the 400m individual medley (4:53.52).
Grainne Murphy finished 13th in the women's 400m individual medley with a time of 4:43.28. She will now travel to the Duel In The Pool in Atlanta to represent Europe against the United States.