Maybe someday in the rest of her life Fiona Doyle will look back on her Olympic experience through bright eyes and not through tears. Only definitely not on this day, her swimming interests in Rio ending with a second straight elimination, this time in the heats of the 200m breaststroke.
And just like in her preferred event last Sunday, the 100m breaststroke, the presence of the Russian Yulia Efimova, who wasn’t supposed to be let anywhere near the Olympic pool in Rio, cast a shadow over not so much the outcome but certainly the mood.
While Doyle finished second in her heat in 2:29.76, nine places short of qualifying, Efimova came out in the final heat to qualify comfortably for the semi-final: so began another tale of mixed emotions for the Limerick swimmer, who like many fellow competitors, has found her Olympic experience somewhat soured by the repeated talk and accusation of doping in the pool.
“I stand by the things I said earlier in the week,” said Doyle, having referred to swimmers such as Efimova as “cheaters”, the Russian recently failing two drug tests, only to be cleared to swim at the last minute after appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport .
“All this talk of doping is coming up a lot, in the media, and in one sense I think it’s good for them to be focusing on that. But in another sense it’s difficult for us, the swimmers, to have to focus on that, as well as racing.
“At the end of the day, I know I have no one else to blame for how I swim, except for myself. My performance is not affected by them. They’re not dictating the times that I do.”
Doyle had also questioned the commitment to clean sport by Fina, the governing body of world swimming, and although reiterating that, she in no way believes that every gold medal swimmer in Rio is doping.
"I would like to believe in a lot of the gold medal winners here, absolutely. And fair play to Lillie King for standing up and doing as she said she would do (in beating Efimova to the gold medal in the 100m breaststroke).
“I think there are a lot of clean athletes here, and I think it’s absolutely fantastic that they’re flying the flag for clean sport. It’s just a shame that some people feel they need to go down the path of drugs, when the human body is capable of so much more than people believe. And I think people are winning gold medals here and proving that they can be clean at the same time.
“So yes I do think swimming can be a clean sport, if more athletes are heard, and maybe that is happening here. But it does need to come from the top, and unfortunately that’s not happening.”
Still, her second swim in Rio brought little personal consolation: she would have needed to beat her Irish record of 2:27.63 by over a second to make the semi-finals.
“I’m disappointed again, because I’m fitter, leaner, stronger than ever before, doing times in training and warm-up that I’ve never done before. Anyone who knows me will know I’m going to be bitterly disappointed, and unhappy, about this week. I came here hoping to do a lot more, knowing I could do a lot more.
“Maybe in a few weeks time I will look back on the Games and I’ll be delighted with how I composed myself, but I’m never going to be happy with the performances.”