SWIM Ireland will send their biggest team in history to the Tokyo Olympic Games, following news that FINA have invited the Irish men’s 4x200m freestyle relay and the men’s 4x100m medley relay teams to the games.
Both teams achieved their historic Irish Record times at the LEN European Championships, held in Budapest last month. With the qualification window open until May 31, they had an anxious wait for the confirmation of their place at the Games. That invite arrived on June 5 and Swim Ireland must confirm their intention to accept the places by June 11.
The men also create history in that they will be the first male relay to compete for Ireland. The last Irish relay to participate at an Olympics was the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle at the Munich Games in 1972.
As of the National Trials last April, Ireland have four individuals qualified over five events. They are Darragh Greene, 100m & 200m breaststroke. Shane Ryan, 100m backstroke, Daniel Wiffen, 800m freestyle and Mona McSharry, 100m breaststroke. Greene and Ryan are also members of the medley relay team now confirmed, bringing the Irish team number to 14 athletes, as each relay may bring two additional athletes.
It was Ireland’s goal at the LEN European Aquatics Championships in Budapest last month to qualify at least one relay team for Tokyo 2021, and each relay team that competed at that championships broke the associated Irish Senior Record to help vindicate Ireland's explicit relay focus for that particular meet.
The men’s 4x200m freestyle relay of Finn McGeever, Jack McMillan, Gerry Quinn and Jordan Sloan stormed through the heats and set a new Irish Senior Record (ISR) 7:12.73, which secured their place in the final. After re-jigging the starting order to McMillan, Sloan, McGeever and Quinn, the quartet then swam 0.73 seconds faster in the final to post 7:12.00, resetting the ISR and placed fifth overall in Europe.
Speaking after the event SI NPD, Rudd said: “we couldn’t have asked any more from those four boys tonight – commitment to the cause, performing for each other and for the collective.”
The men’s 4x100m medley relay team, Shane Ryan, Darragh Greene, Brendan Hyland and Jack McMillan posted a new ISR, 3:34.62 in the heats but were unable to match that time in the final, posting 3:34.88, but still faster than their world championship time, and placed seventh overall.
Ordinarily, there is a ‘one trials only’ policy for selection to International competitions, but as with other nations across the globe, an additional opportunity has been provided to allow for the major disruption to training over the past 12/18 months. It was originally planned to attend one of the European ‘last chance’ meets, but in an effort to minimise the risks for our athletes, FINA approval was sought, and received, to hold a ‘last chance trials’ in Dublin. That will be held at the NAC from June 24-26 and will feature Olympic events only.
The focus will be on 10 athletes who came within 1.5% of a FINA 'A' time at the National Trials on April, they are: Brendan Hyland, Finn McGeever, Jack McMillan and Jordan Sloan (all members of the successful relays), Callum Bain, Eoin Corby, Niamh Coyne, Conor Ferguson, Danielle Hill and Nicholas Quinn.
The meet will be open to all performance centre athletes. All those who enter will be able to post times which will be considered as part of the selection process for the 2021 LEN European Championships (25m) in November and the 2021 FINA World Championships (25m) in December.
Speaking after the historic announcement, SI NPD, Rudd said: “This is a truly a historic moment for Irish swimming and for us all to be part of that, and for the Irish swimming community to have something huge to celebrate after such challenging times of late for our sport is so inspiring and uplifting.
"The coaches and practitioners who work day in, day out, with these athletes must also receive our praise and our thanks. Now we prepare to do our nation proud in Tokyo - and give everyone a summer of excitement to look forward to.”
News of the relay qualification will provide an extra impetus to those, so close to the elusive FINA ‘A’ time and hopefully, there will be a few more individual qualifiers to add to the Swim Ireland list.