Wednesday 21 February 2018

Sycerika McMahon exits with her head held high

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

A DAY earlier she had burst into tears after her Olympic debut, but young Ulster swimmer Sycerika McMahon was a lot happier after recording a personal best in yesterday's 200m medley heats.

The teenager finished third in her heat in 2:14.76.

It wasn't enough for a semi-final spot -- Brazil's Joanna Melo was last to get in with 2:14.26 as the qualifying was led by new Chinese sensation Shiwen Ye in 2:08.9.

Yet for McMahon, it went a long way towards erasing the traumatic memory of finishing last in Sunday's 100m breaststroke heat.

"I was disappointed but this morning I got up and completely forgot about it and just focused on my race," McMahon said.

"I gave it everything, that's what I came here to do. I had to do that, there is no point in coming here if I'm not going to compete to my full ability. I guess that is part of being an athlete and that's what I did.

"Unfortunately, the 100m breaststroke wasn't what I expected it to be, but there are plenty of things I can take away from it -- positive and negative -- to improve myself."

McMahon was only 16 when she won a European senior silver medal this year and bagged the Olympic 'A' qualifying time.

Asked if becoming an Olympian at 17 had been intimidating, she insisted: "It's not difficult at all, it's a great experience. My main goal was to qualify for London and anything I did after that was really a bonus.

"I've loved it. This is by far my favourite place ever. The atmosphere is so great here with all these champions at the top of their game."

And demonstrating the sort of dedication that sees the Portaferry teenager and her mum, Mary, rising at 4.30 every morning to drive to training in Belfast before her school day, she revealed she may not even take the opportunity to enjoy the rest of the Olympics and the athletes' village for the next fortnight.

"I'm not sure if I can stay for more of the Games. I'll talk to my coach about that and if I have to go, I hope I'll go home," she said.

"My focus now is to go back to training and get better and be back competing with these guys again.

"I really want to make it to a final one day to experience that myself. This is the biggest competition I have ever been involved in and I have to learn to deal with that as well, with the atmosphere."

As expected, Wexford's Grainne Murphy withdrew from yesterday's 200m freestyle to concentrate on her 800m freestyle heats on Thursday.

Irish Independent

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