Mona McSharry breaks eighth Irish record to conclude stellar showing in Abu Dhabi

Daniel Wiffen also set a new national record with his swim in the 1500m freestyle final

The distance was that bit beyond her best and still Mona McSharry wrapped up her magnificent showing at the Fina World Short Course Championships in Abu Dhabi by setting an eighth national record within five days, and making it 18 in all for the 11-strong Swim Ireland team inside the Etihad Arena.

After winning Ireland’s second medal of these championships on Monday in her preferred event, coming from behind to land bronze in the 100m breaststroke, McSharry went into Tuesday’s 200m breaststroke final, her third in all, looking to improve again on the national record set earlier in the day in qualifying.

Which is exactly she what did, taking just under a second and a half off that time when clocking of 2:20.19 to finish seventh best, the American Emily Escobedo winning gold in 2:17.85.

Using her speed and power, McSharry held third position, behind Escobedo and Britain's Molly Renshaw, up until the 150m mark, only for things to change over the last two lengths: Renshaw ended up third, with Evgeniia Chikunova from the Russian Swimming Federation among those to come through to displace McSharry.


No regrets though for the 21-year-old Sligo swimmer, who missed out on bronze by just .04 of a second in the 50m breaststroke on Friday, before snatching bronze in the 100m event in 1:03.92, nudging defending champion and world record holder Alia Atkinson of Jamaica off the medal podium, that time also an Irish record, and only Ireland's third ever medal at a World Championships

McSharry, from the little Sligo hamlet near the ocean at Mullaghmore called Grange, and who this summer in Tokyo became the first Irish swimmer to make an Olympic final since Michelle de Bruin in 1996 (in that 100m breaststroke), was followed by Ellen Walshe producing the swim of her young life, the 20-year-old from Dublin winning the silver medal in the 400m individual medley last Thursday.

Both Irish swimmers are now based at the University of Tennessee, and while McSharry hadn’t won a world senior medal before Abu Dhabi, she did win a bronze at the European Short Course Swimming Championships in 2019.

“It was so much fun to just finish the meet with yet another final and to be able to say I swam in every finals session this week,” said McSharry. “It has been tough, but it’s been great and it’s such a good character builder. I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it.

“I’m just going to take next year as it comes. It’s the year after the Olympics. I’ve done a lot of competing in college and now this, but I am trying to make it a more relaxed year. Just give myself a break, because the Olympics was quite a big pinnacle, and I did so well. I’m just going to get out there and try and race and see how I do over the next year.

It means her eight Irish records in all came across the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke, plus the 100m individual medley; McSharry's previous lifetime best in the 200m breaststroke in short course format was 2:25.08, teammate Niamh Coyne holding the mark at 2:22.70; McSharry broke that on Tuesday morning, posting 2:21.59 to finish third in her heat and joint seventh overall. Her medal haul to date also includes 2017 European junior gold in the 50m and 100m breaststroke, and also 2017 World junior gold in the 100m breaststroke.

The concluding session featured two other Irish swimmers, Daniel Wiffen in the 1500m freestyle final and Jack McMillan in the 100m freestyle final. In his first international 1500m final, Wiffen placed eighth in a time of 14:36.78, just four seconds shy of his Irish record, Germany's Florian Wellbrock taking gold there with a new world record of 14:06.88.

Shortly after, McMillan also sent sub-47 seconds again in his again 100m freestyle final, clocking 46.97 for seventh place, the gold medal there going to the towering Italian Allessandro Miressi in 45.57.

Summing up a remarkable and historic week for Irish swimming, National Performance Director Jon Rudd said: "There's so much positivity that we can take from this meet that it's actually difficult to know where to start.

“Ellen and Mona both winning medals is certainly wonderful for us and I’m so pleased for them as this has only ever happened once before for Ireland - and a total of eighteen Irish records across the meet is quite remarkable. It was a special moment for us to see an Irish relay in a World Championships final - one of seven finals for us across the six days.

“This is a short course meet, and we have to keep our feet on the ground in that sense. But we came and took on the rest of the world and if the world of swimming hadn’t noticed Ireland before today, they very much know about what we can do now.”

Irish Short-Course Records set at 2021 World Championships

Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay - Heats: 7:02.35 + Final: 6:59.54

Jack McMillan, Robbie Powell, Finn McGeever, Jordan Sloan

Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay - Heats: 3:12.94

Calum Bain, Brendan Hyland, Jack McMillan, Jordan Sloan

Daniel Wiffen’s Irish Senior Record Swims in Abu Dhabi

1500m Freestyle Heats 1500m - 14:32.13

1500m Freestyle Heats 800m - 7:41.82

Mona McSharry’s Irish Senior Record Swims in Abu Dhabi

50m Breaststroke Semi-Final - 29.65

50m Breaststroke Final - 29.59

100m Individual Medley Heats - 59.65

100m Individual Medley Semi-Final - 59.35

100m Breaststroke Semi-Final - 1:04.22

100m Breaststroke Final - 1:03.92

200m Breaststroke Heats - 2:21.59

200m Breaststroke Final 2:20.19

Ellen Walshe’s Irish Senior Record Swims in Abu Dhabi

400m Individual Medley Heats - 4:30.78

400m Individual Medley Final - 4:26.52

200m Individual Medley Heats - 2:08.69

100m Butterfly Heats - 57.32

100m Butterfly Semi-Final - 56.68

Total: 18

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

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