Tom Fannon finishes two hundredths of a second inside qualification time to seal Olympic berth

Nathan Wiffen falls short of joining his twin brother Daniel in Paris with one more chance to qualify this weekend

Every split second can count in the race for Olympic qualification, and for Ireland’s fastest swimmer Tom Fannon that meant splitting it again to book his ticket to Paris later this summer.

Already the first and only Irishman to break 22 seconds in the 50 metres freestyle, Hannon took the win on day two of Swim Ireland’s Olympic Trials in 21.94 seconds, taking .01 off his Irish record and finishing just .02 inside the required qualifying time for Paris. Close, but Fannon gets his cigar, the fifth individual Irish swimmer now qualified for Paris.

On the flip side of those inconceivably tight margins, Conor Ferguson fell short in his quest to qualify for his first Olympics after narrowly missing out on both Rio and Tokyo, in the end left just .13 short of the time required for the 100m backstroke.

The 24-year-old from Belfast, now based at Loughborough University, took the win in 53.99 seconds, still short of the 53.74 required having improved his lifetime best from 53.90 to 53.87 in Wednesday’s heats.


As a 16-year-old, Ferguson missed out this event for Rio by .05 of a second; for the delayed Tokyo Olympics, three years ago, he was .47 of a second short; you do the math.

After turning 26 on Monday, Fannon was clearly elated with his 21.94, swimming 21.95 at this event last year to erase the over-decade-old national record of 22.14 set by Barry Murphy, on the books since the super-suited 2009 World Championships.

“Just delighted to have stuck to the process, and let the outcome take care of itself,” said Fannon, who was born in Birmingham, and later declared for Ireland, his grandfather being from Galway.

“Just don’t overthink it, that’s the best advice I can [give]. We train so often that the process is there, so just stick to what you know. The moment you start overthinking and getting nervous, the race is done from the start.”

Fannon moved to Dublin in 2021, now based with national squad at Abbotstown, and finished ahead of Calum Bain, a close second, touching home in 22.24.

After that all eyes turned to the Wiffen twins from Armagh, as double World Champion Daniel, already safely qualified for the Paris in three events, looked to help pace his twin brother Nathan under the Olympic qualification time in the 800m freestyle.

Targeting the Paris time of 7:51.65, in the end Nathan won in 7:54.69, another two-second improvement on his previous best, as Daniel clearly eased up to take second, in 8:00.61. Nathan will get another chance in the 1,500m freestyle, those heats set for Saturday morning.

“Yeah the plan obviously was to try get Nathan on the plane to Paris as well,” said Daniel, who at one point during the race started shouting encouragement at his twin brother in the lane inside him.

“He came away with another big PB, but the emotions just got over me, in the middle of the race, when we weren’t on pace, so I just starting shouting, ‘Just go, just go..’ I think he only heard me towards the end of the race.

“I knew after about 150m, we were falling off the pace, but he only started the freestyle a year and a half ago, he keeps progressing ever time he races. He’s still got that chance in the 1,500m.”

Wiffen hasn’t tapered for this event, the Olympic Trials doubling as the Irish Open Championships: “I’m in full training, still at 85km a week, just grinding it out. I’ll do the 400m free, and the 1,500m heats also. But everything is about Paris at this stage.”

Earlier, Cork swimmer Max McCusker set a new Irish senior record in the 100m butterfly with a time of 51.90, improving his own mark of 52.31. Chasing the Paris time of 51.67 in the final, he touched home in 52.43, with Evan Bailey again improving the Irish junior record to 53.39.

Earlier, Darragh Greene set a new championship record of 59.91 in the 100m breaststroke, and went into that final chasing the 59.49 needed for Paris, and his second Olympics, but had to settle for the win in 1:00.36, ahead of Eoin Corby, who won silver in 1:00.41

Danielle Hill, who achieved the Paris qualification time in the 100m backstroke on Wednesday with a first sub-minute clocking, was back in the pool for the 100m freestyle, winning that title in another excellent time of 55.17, where Grace Davison swam another junior record of 55.44.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics