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Who is Daniel Wiffen, Ireland’s first swimmer to break a world record?

All you need to know about Ireland’s brightest hope for a swimming medal at the Paris Olympics

Who is Daniel Wiffen?

He is a 22-year-old Irish swimmer from Magheralin, a village between Moira and Lurgan in Co Down and a past pupil of St Patrick’s Grammar in Armagh.

Why is he in the news?

He just smashed the oldest world swimming record on the books in the 800m freestyle final at the European Aquatics Short Course Championships in Otopeni, Romania.

What do you mean ‘smashed’?

Wiffen finished in 7 minutes, 20.46 seconds, nearly three seconds faster than the previous record.

How old was the record?

Former Olympic and world champion Grant Hackett of Australia broke the record in July 2008 and held it for 15 years.

Did Wiffen win anything else?

Yes. He won three gold medals in all at 1,500m, 800m and 400m.

How good is that?

Very. He is the only Irish male swimmer to have ever broken a world record in swimming.

Is it a surprise?

Breaking the record by three seconds is a surprise but he has been smashing records at Irish and European level for the last two years. He recently broke 15-minutes for the 1,500m. Swimming 1,500m in less than 15 minutes is a sure-fire way to get noticed.

How far ahead of the field was he in Romania?

He finished almost 10 seconds ahead of second-placed French swimmer David Aubry in 7:30.32, while Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk was third.

Where is he based?

He trains in Loughborough University in England with British squad swimmers and his identical twin brother Nathan, who came in behind him in seventh in the 800m final. He is pursuing a degree in IT with Business Management.

What does the record mean?

It puts him among the favourites to win a medal next summer at the Paris Olympic Games in any or all of his three best distances.

Are the Olympics run in a short-course pool?

No, the Olympic Games swimming competition takes place in a 50-metre long-course pool, as opposed to the 25-metre short-course version.

What’s the difference?

A short-course race has twice as much turning and gliding, allowing swimmers to spend up to 60 per cent of the race underwater. A long-course pool only allows you to stay underwater for up to 30 per cent of the race because there are half as many turns. Because of that and the push at each turn, short-course records are faster than long-course records.

What does Wiffen think?

“My end goal, I’d like to get a medal at the Olympics. Yes, I definitely think it is realistic. Looking at my races there are so many pointers I’ve seen, where I know I can improve and drop times further.”

What else?

According to his parents he started swimming at three months old with twin brother Nathan. He has another brother Ben and sister Beth. They began in Lurgan Swimming Club before moving to Lisburn Swimming Club.

How hard is training?

The harder the better according to Wiffen, who says he enjoys difficult training. He is looked after by Loughborough’s performance director Andi Manley and spends 50 hours plus in the pool and gym per week.

It’s all swimming then?

No, he enjoys acting. He was an extra in the Red Wedding scene in Game of Thrones. His sister was given a role as one of the Frey daughters [Neyela Frey, granddaughter of Lord Walder Frey].

So what’s next?

The long-course World Swimming Championships are next up. They take place in Doha, Qatar beginning February 2nd.

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Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times