Conor Ferguson swims PB to make final of 50m backstroke in Budapest
Men’s and women’s 4x100m freestyle teams miss out on finals despite clocking new fastest times
Ireland’s Conor Ferguson celebrates qualifying for the final after finishing fourth in his semi-final of the 50m backstroke at the LEN European Aquatics Championships at the Duna Arena in Budapest. Photograph: Andrea Staccioli/Inpho
Two senior relay records and a final berth for Conor Ferguson in the 50m backstroke marked a good opening day for the Irish swimmers at the European Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary – the last chance also for Tokyo Olympic qualification.
It’s a top-quality competition, highlighted by the fact Ferguson’s semi-final was won by the 20-year-old Russian Kliment Koleshnikov in a new world record time of 23.93 seconds.
The 21-year-old Ferguson clocked 25.21 in his heat, improving his personal best to 24.81 in the semi-final, which saw him advance as sixth fastest to the final, set for Tuesday evening. “Really happy with my swim today,” said the Larne swimmer, “and I just want to say a massive thanks for all the support that I get from back home.”
Darragh Greene was also in semi-final action, clocking 1:00.26 in 100m breaststroke, missing out on the final, but is back later in the week in the 200m breaststroke.
Earlier, both the men’s and women’s 4x100m freestyle relay teams set new Irish senior records: the women’s quartet of Mona McSharry, Danielle Hill, Victoria Catterson and Erin Riordan swam 3:44.37, lowering the record set in 2009 by almost three seconds. That left them fifth in their heat, and 12th overall.
In the men’s event, Jack McMillan, Jordan Sloan, Shane Ryan and Max McCusker came home in 3:16.88, bettering the time that was set by McMillan, Sloan, Ryan and Robbie Powell at the 2019 World Championships. They also finished 12th, but the improved time has advanced their chances of qualifying for the Tokyo.
Olympic relay qualification saw the 12 best nations in event at the 2019 World Championships, staged in Gwangju, South Korea, gain automatic qualification for Tokyo: with a total of 16 Olympic slots available per relay, Ireland are currently sitting in two top-16 positions leading into this competition. The men’s 4x100m medley (14th at the 2019 World Championships) and 4x200m freestyle (16th) will be looking to improve their times later in the week.
As well as Ferguson’s 50m backstroke final, Tuesday’s Irish schedule also includes McSharry in the 100m breaststroke and a first ever Irish appearance in the mixed 4x200m freestyle relay, a non-Olympic evevnt. The team consists of McCusker, Brendan Hyland, Naomi Trait and Catterson.