Tuesday 12 December 2017

Swimming: McMahon and Nocher book tickets to London

Melanie Nocher, from Hollywood, Co. Down, on her way to achieving Olympic qualification during the Women's 200m Backstroke Final. Photo: Sportsfile
Melanie Nocher, from Hollywood, Co. Down, on her way to achieving Olympic qualification during the Women's 200m Backstroke Final. Photo: Sportsfile

Mark O'Driscoll

Melanie Nocher and Sycerika McMahon's performances at the European Long Course Championships were hailed as the benchmark for future Irish swimmers as both qualified for the Olympics yesterday.

European junior champion McMahon started a great day for Irish swimming when she made it to London 2012 by clocking 1:08.37 in the 100m breaststroke heats -- 0.12 inside the Olympic qualification 'A' standard -- and then repeated the feat in the semi-finals to qualify for tonight's final.

"I can't believe it, it's just amazing, a dream to think that I'm going to the Olympics. It's what every athlete dreams about," said the 17-year-old from the Leander club in Belfast.

Beijing Olympian Nocher, who had set an Irish record of 2:11.68 24 hours earlier, went into last night's 200m backstroke final full of confidence and duly smashed the Irish record again by clocking 2:10.75, nine hundredths of a second inside the 'A' time.

Nocher and McMahon have joined Grainne and Barry Murphy in the team for London, and Swim Ireland's High Performance director Peter Banks believes the governing body's decision to accept only world-class 'A' times has paid off.

"Melanie and Sycerika -- and for that matter Barry and Grainne -- have set the benchmark for future Irish swimmers. They shown that people from this country can do the 'A' times," he said.

"Sycerika produced the perfect race. Right from the start she had the right pace and it was clear that the hard work she has done with her coach Bobby Madine paid off.

"She's now in a great place in her career -- at 17 she has her first Olympics and she can draw on all that experience in four years' time in Rio.

"I don't know whether Melanie was inspired by what Sycerika did but she really gave a great performance."

Banks added that there is an outside chance that Ireland could have a 4x200m freestyle team at London now that three girls have the 'A' standard.

"We will enter a relay team on Thursday and see what time they can post. Twelve teams have already qualified from the World Championships and there are four more places up for grabs.

"It will take a big performance but anything is possible."

Irish Independent

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