Irish swimmers set four new national records in Romania

Records tumble on penultimate night of racing with Daniel Wiffen favoured to win a third gold on Sunday

Irish swimmers set four new national records and had five European top 10 finishes on the penultimate night of racing at the European Aquatics Short Course Championships in Romania.

Danielle Hill set yet another Irish record in the 100m backstroke final, the Larne swimmer’s sixth record of the championships. Hill, who placed fourth in the 50m backstroke final on Friday, was sixth overall in the final of the 100m event in 57.56, lowering the record of 57.73 that she set in the semi-final.

The 24-year-old was pleased with her results this week. “I think that has to be the most nervous that I have felt all week, that 100m matters just a little bit more, and I’m happy to back up the 57 [seconds], so I’m really excited moving forward now with that. I’m looking forward to supporting the rest of the guys now.”

Already a 400m individual medley bronze medallist at the championships, Ellen Walshe came close to a second medal when she finished fourth in the final of the 100m butterfly.

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Walshe swam an Irish record of 56.67, taking one hundredth of a second off her own 2021 record of 56.68, and was just .69 behind the bronze medallist.

Just 30 minutes later, the Templeogue swimmer was back on the blocks for the 200m individual medley final where she was sixth overall in 2:09.57, outside the Irish record of 2:08.50 that she set in Friday’s semi-final.

Walshe was back in the pool once again for the semi-finals of the 50m butterfly, where she lowered her heat time of 25.99 to 25.97 to place 12th overall.

Reflecting on her championships, Walshe said: “I have a lot to learn and a lot of improvements to make short course and I think that this meet has shown me where I need to improve, so I’m looking forward to getting back training and enjoying the rest of the season.”

In the 200m freestyle, Victoria Catterson swam her second Irish record of the day, dipping under the 1:56 mark for the first time to finish sixth in her semi-final and 12th overall in 1:55.94.

Catterson took almost a second off the record of 1:56.90 that she set earlier on Saturday, a record of 1:57.29 that double Olympian Melanie Nocher had held since 2011.

Speaking after the race, the National Centre Dublin swimmer said: “It’s been good to come in here and be able to pb [personal best] and set a record this morning, and then follow it up and take another second off it tonight. It’s really positive and shows the work I’ve been doing and even what’s to come.”

John Shortt backed up his Irish senior and junior record set in the 200m backstroke heats on Saturday morning with another record in the semi-finals. The 16-year-old lowered his time from 1:54.21 to 1:54.02 to place fifth in his heat and 11th overall.

“I’m delighted with that, to progress it on from heats to semis is really good. I kind of wanted to be a little bit quicker but I can’t complain,” said Shortt.

Also competing in the 200m individual medley this evening, Ellie McCartney, swimming in her first senior international final in her first season as a senior athlete, finished eighth overall in 2:12.40.

The 18-year-old said: “It’s been great to come out on the European stage and be making finals, it’s my first time making a senior final, so even to get here is such a great achievement. I’m 10 years younger than some of the people I was racing against there so it’s all about building experience. The time wasn’t what I wanted, but the atmosphere and experience of being here, I can’t ask for much more.’

In the men’s 100m freestyle, Ireland was represented by Shane Ryan and Max McCusker in the first semi-final. Ryan, the Irish record holder in the event, posted the faster time of the duo in 47.23 for 10th overall, while McCusker was 16th in 48.57.

Only one day of racing remains at the championships, with Maria Godden the only swimmer in action on Sunday morning in the 400m freestyle heats. Daniel and Nathan Wiffen will compete in the 800m freestyle final at 5.34pm with Daniel on the hunt for a hat-trick of gold medals having already claimed titles in the 400m and 1,500m freestyle.

Daniel finished first in his heat in a time of 7:33.38, securing the centre line for the final. The 22-year-old set the European record at 7:25.96 at the Irish Winter Championships in 2022.

Speaking after the race Daniel said: ”It was pretty good, I had a little bit of fun in that race, I went out normal pace and then I just sat back after I got the lead just to make it not as tough on me for the final tomorrow, now it’s all about recovery.”

Nathan placed second in his heat as he knocked 12 seconds off personal best time of 7:34.78. His previous best was 7:46.40. Looking ahead to tomorrow’s final, Nathan said: “I came in here and thought it would be difficult to make a final at my first senior meet, or ever at any international, so to make two finals is pretty unreal in my opinion. The 800m is my main event, so I was surprised to make it in the 1500m, so yeah, I’m very excited.”

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