It now looks like open water swimming will be possible in May and that the pools may be able to reopen in June. Swimmers-all of your efforts to keep engaged during to worst of the lockdown will pay off in a rapid return to great performances. After all these land exercise sessions your athletic ability is now better than ever!
Meanwhile elite training has continued, culminating in the Olympic and Paralympic trials this week (April 20-24) in Dublin. SWSC have three competitors, Andrew Feenan, Sean O’Riordan and Liam Custer. And our Head Coach Richard Cassidy will be attending the meet, which is being held under very strict health regulations.
Andrew, who is part of the National Squad and has been training with John Szaranek in NAC Limerick where he attends UL, will swim his two best events-the 100m and 200m breast stroke. In a recent time trial he improved his PB in the 200m by three seconds. Tapered he should be able to challenge both times. Ironically, these are the events in which Ireland has its best competitors so his major aim will be to maintain his great progress and qualify for International meets in future years.
Sean will compete in the 50m, 100m and 400m freestyle in the Paralympic trials. He has the best chance of qualifying in the 400 but the QT is a very tough 4:34. He swam this event for Ireland in the Para World Championships in 2018 but the QT was then 4:48. His best before lockdown was 4:41. After an interrupted 2020, he has been training in the NACs in Limerick and Dublin since Christmas, and has just returned from a 10day camp in Tenerife, so hopefully his fitness has returned and improved.
Liam, who hails from Sarasota Florida, has been a valued member of SWSC for several years. Since he holds joint US and Irish passports, he is eligible to declare for Ireland. He is one of the best 16 year olds in the USA, and will compete in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles at the trials. Since his 800 and 1500 times are better than the Irish U19 Junior records, he should have a good chance of qualifying for this summer’s European Junior Championships in Rome. We applaud his efforts to get to Ireland which were greatly facilitated by Jon Rudd and his team in Swim Ireland!
I am sure you will all be watching their endeavours! And let’s hope all the rest of you can back in the water as soon as possible!
I want to begin by wishing all competitors, their parents, our coaches and teachers, committee and sub-committees, and all members-including Masters, a very Happy New Year. Two thousand and twenty one should eventually be much better than 2020 because of the roll out of the vaccines. However, it is obvious that it will take some months to get out of the present serious situation. Meanwhile let’s be as positive as possible!
Thank you all for your efforts and major enthusiasm in 2020. Swimmers- you did far more land work than in previous years, and this increased athleticism transferred to the pool, allowing you to maintain or even improve competitive times. We will continue with remote exercise sessions this month. If you have ideas of other things the club might offer, then let us know.
Competitive swimmers are by definition extremely organised individuals. They have to be to balance academic life at school or college with the demands of elite swimming. (And they are often the best scholars!) With lockdowns and remote learning it may be necessary to plan your own days. The most important thing is not to feel isolated either academically, swimming-wise or socially. Ask questions! Keep in regular contact with your friends.
Several of you are in your Leaving Certificate year. If you are finding the demands of swimming too much, then work out a reduced programme with your coaches. But do not quit altogether! You have probably heard about the findings of an English neurologist that aerobic exercise improves brain function and academic performance. We hope you will continue to swim for the next few years. Most people can improve greatly in their early 20s with a good programme. Let us know if we can help with future choices!
You were all very enthusiastic in the pre-Christmas time trials. Unfortunately, the progress of the pandemic prevented these from being completed properly. The Swim Ireland idea was to introduce a virtual competition between clubs, including those from Britain. The first competitions allowed this spring will probably be intra club time trials and your coaches will work with SI to introduce a major inter-club competitive element.
When you got back in the water in early December it was envisaged that the SC Nationals would go ahead. Twenty eight of our swimmers qualified-a record number! However this format was cancelled because of the disease situation, much to the disappointment of most of our Senior squad. The meet went ahead in NAC Dublin in a much reduced form, restricted to elite swimmers (National squad members) and Paralympic Tokyo “possibles”. It was also decided to run SC events in the morning and LC of the same events in the evening. This is an arrangement that had been run in the USA earlier in 2020 and is very tough for the swimmers. We had two swimmers involved; Andrew Feenan who is on the National Squad and has been training in NAC Limerick with John Szaranek since the end of the first lockdown in July and is enrolled in UL, and Paralympian Sean O’Riordan who is in 3rd Speech & Language Therapy in UCC and holds a Sports Scholarship there. Andrew recorded a great series of breast stroke PBs-the 50, 100 and 200 LC; and 100 and 200 SC, where his 1:02.01 and 2:14.30 were club records. This was in a meet where there were very few PBs. Sean recorded PBs in the 50 freestyle and breaststroke and was near his best in the 400 SC free, but struggled in the LC event; the latter demonstrating the effect of the lockdown on fitness for longer events. Much more difficult qualifying times have been introduced for the Tokyo Paralympics than for the previous World Championships (in which Sean qualified), and the 400 freestyle is the only event in which he is in reach of qualifying.
Meanwhile our US member Liam Custer was far less affected by lockdown since he trains in a club-controlled outdoor 50m pool in Florida with Sarasota Sharks. This pool is 25 yards wide and was set up during 2020 with a large number of SCY lanes with two swimmers in each maximising social distancing by starting from opposite ends. Outdoor meets were also possible and Liam recorded a remarkable series of LCM times in late autumn (Free: 200 1:55.46; 400 3:58.14; 800 8:09.69; 1500 15:35.69; 200 Back 2:05.29; 400 IM 4:28.23). Both the 800 and 1500 qualify for the US Olympic trials and importantly surpass the current Irish Junior Records. These records are for U19 swimmers and Liam is currently 16! We look forward to him swimming with SWSC when he is next permitted to visit Ireland.
Twenty-four SWSC swimmers competed in last weeks Irish Age Groups and Summer Nationals in the 50m pool in the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin. Individual age groups were 12/13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 and older. The latter age group was particularly competitive with for example Danielle Hill and Mona McSharry setting Irish Senior records (Danielle’s 50m Back would have made a World Championships Semi Final!). Relays were 14 and under and 15 and over. All but two SWSC swimmers had achieved Division 1 times; the others Laoise Deasy and Peter Higgins were drafted to swim in relays (they were great). The meet was highly competitive with German and Danish Senior teams, and excellent swimmers from for example Hamilton Aquatics and Ealing. Our swimmers, other than those recovering from the Leaving Certificate (Luc Galland and Sharon Semchiy) were given a single aim “swim personal bests!” They responded magnificently!
Out of 100 swims over five days, 63 were PBs-including morning heat swims. This is the highest proportion of PBs at this competition in recent years. Photographs of medallists have already been displayed on this website, as has a recording of the club records broken. Munster records are currently being investigated.
Looking through the results (listed elsewhere on this site) four individuals stand out:
• Lauren Farr won several 12/13 medals (see photos below) competing in seven individual finals. Probably her most impressive performance was in the 200m Backstroke where she won by more than five meters and took 7.8 sec off her entry time recording 2:26.82.
• Ellen Lee won 14 year medals and swam a great 1:06.00 to take an emphatic win in the 100m Fly.
• Paul Higgins swam four finals in the 16 year age group winning two medals. The best of these was a 1st place in the 100 Fly in 58.76.
• Perhaps best of all were the Breast stroke performances by Andrew Feenan. Coming second in the very tough 17 and over age group he recorded a time of 2:20.91. He has progressed almost five seconds in this event since February!
Other great swims, looking at final places and/or major time improvements (using an alphabetical list and with apologies for anyone not mentioned) included:
• Laoise Deasy who swam in three relays, with Lauren and Rachel Farr and Ellen Lee, two of which won bronze medals, and reduced her 200m Freestyle by 12.15 sec in leading off the 14 and under 800 FR.
• Anna Feenan who made six finals in the 16 year age group and took 8.85 sec off her 400m Freestyle.
• Michael Feenan who made two 15 year finals and took 6.06 sec off his 200m Breast stroke.
• Marc Galland who swam three finals in the highly competitive 14 year age group and took 5.49 sec off his 400m Freestyle.
• Beth Nolan and Aoife O’Shea who each made two finals in the 17 and over and 16 year age groups respectively, with two of Beth’s swims being Club Records (see below).
• Luke O’Sullivan’s 1:58.9 in the 17 and older 200m Freestyle.
• James Ryan who made three 16 year age group finals and reduced his 200m Backstroke by 3.98 seconds.
• And Sharon Semchiy who made two 17 + finals and looked great for the first half of her races (looking forward to seeing you get your fitness back after the LC Sharon).
Coupled with excellent relay performances, and good swims from Sean and Cian O’Riordan, Rory Lee, Drew and Suzy Lynch, Penny Semple, Illan Wall and Rowan Walsh; this made for a great meet for SWSC!