SYCERIKA McMahon joined an elite band at the European Long Course Championships in Hungary yesterday when she became only the sixth Irish swimmer to lift a medal at a major championships when winning silver in the 50m breaststroke final.
McMahon had qualified second fastest for the final and lived up to her billing when she pushed hard for gold all the way, setting a new Irish record of 31.27, only two-hundredths of a second behind the Czech Republic's Petra Chocova. Bronze went to Caroline Ruhhau of Germany in 31.35.
It was the perfect ending to an incredible week in Debrecen for the European junior champion who, along with fellow northerner Melanie Nocher, qualified for the London Olympics.
Swim Ireland high performance director Peter Banks hailed McMahon's performances, and believes she can be an inspiration to a new generation.
"I believe Sycerika should be an inspiration to every young athlete in Ireland, not just the young swimmers we have, because she has shown the determination and the composure on the international stage that every sportsperson should have," he said.
"I think, from the overall view of the sport, the really encouraging thing is that from the last four European junior and senior championships we have had medal winners, long course and short course. And it's a tremendous achievement for Sycerika, at 17, to win a senior European medal.
"To have a group of swimmers all performing at the highest level pushing for medals is just great. Before, we might have had one person at the highest level, but now we have a group."
McMahon, who trains at the Leander club in Belfast, admitted she surprised herself by her performance.
"To win a medal at my first European senior championships is amazing. I didn't come here thinking I would be winning a medal, but after qualifying second fastest I started to think it was possible," said the 17-year-old, the youngest Irish swimmer to win on such a major stage.
"I came very close to the gold, it was a very fast race and it gives me a lot of confidence looking ahead to the future. I want more medals like this."