medal hunt | 

Mona McSharry becomes first Irish swimmer to make Olympic final for 25 years

Mona McSharry of Ireland in action

Mona McSharry of Ireland in action

Cathal Dennehy in Tokyo

Sligo swimming star Mona McSharry turned in a stunning performance to qualify for the 100m breaststroke final in Tokyo today, the first Irish swimmer to make an Olympic final for 25 years. The 20-year-old clocked 1:06.59 to finish fourth in her semi-final, her time quick enough to see her through to tomorrow’s final in eighth place.

“I’m over the moon. That was the target, make it round by round and when I got to the semi-finals it was the plan to try make it into the final,” she said.

“I knew it was going to be tough. I was in ninth, already having moved up from my starting position so I knew it was going to be a push, everyone is swimming really fast and it’s competitive. I’m just so happy to get another opportunity to race tomorrow.”

McSharry admitted there was some grogginess this morning following a late night after her heat, her time today not quite as swift as she swam in the heats.

“I’m not surprised about that but I’m happier with how the race felt so I’m hoping I can pull the two together and swim a fast time hopefully like that.”

Her plans between now and the final?

“I’m going to relax, have a shower, chill, I might come in tonight for a paddle. I’ll definitely come in and watch Ellen (Walshe) and Brendan (Hyland) race, that’ll be fun, just being a spectator for the night. I’ll try get to bed earlier tonight if I can.”

McSharry said she was reveling in the Olympic experience and making friends beyond the swimming contingent at what is her first Games.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “That’s the great thing about the Irish spirit as well: we are very close as a nation.”

Her achievement marks an incredible entrance on the Olympic stage for the Grange swimmer, a scholarship student at the University of Tennessee. McSharry, of course, has long been a name marked to make waves at this level, ever since winning gold and bronze medals at the 2017 World Junior Championships.

Speaking of her move stateside, McSharry said: “I really enjoy it, I made so many friends and it’s taken me away from times, it’s more about competing and getting your hand on the wall first and that is why we do this – to compete and race against people, that adrenaline rush you get.”

Her final takes place at 3:17am Irish time on Tuesday, and McSharry will be back in action after that in the heats of the 200m breaststroke on Wednesday.

Elsewhere, Russell White finished 48th in the men’s race in grueling conditions, the 29-year-old Down athlete clocking 1:54:40 in a race won by Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt in 1:45:04.

“I was on the back foot from the start,” he said. “I didn’t have a great swim and it made for a very hard race after. But I’m absolutely honoured to be here today and to compete for Ireland in the Olympic Games.”

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