European qualifier Burdis targets Olympic qualification

It was only a four-hundredths of a second gap, but it was enough for Karl Burdis to qualify for May’s European Championships in Hungary last night.

Although Olympic qualification was an unlikely prospect during the second night of Irish Long-Course Championship finals, there were other prospects.

The event, doubling as the Irish Olympic Trials, also saw two prospects for the European Juniors in Helsinki.

Burdis’ national record in the men’s 100m backstroke achieved yesterday is the same blink-of-an-eye duration outside the Olympic A standard.

The Portmarnock swimmer clocked 55.90 seconds in winning the 100 backstroke in Blanchardstown – dipping narrowly underneath the 55.94 mark needed for Debrecen.

Burdis admitted afterwards: “I scuffed the race a little bit at the start, but then came back really strong. My main aim of these Championships was to qualify for the Europeans, and give myself a more in-depth feel to try and qualify for London.

“I cut it fine but people win medals by less at the Olympic Games, so I’ll take it.”

Burdis holds the national mark of 54.44 seconds, with the Olympic A standard a tempting 54.40.

Brian E O’Sullivan, three seconds back in the silver-medal position, missed out on European Junior qualification by 0.31 of a second.

Melanie Nocher’s performance in the women’s 100 backstroke semis had already put her through to the Europeans, but she shaved a further two-tenths of a second off her previous night’s mark to set a new PB of 1:01.92.

This should keep her in fine fettle ahead of her Olympic bid tonight in her preferred 200m – the distance at which Nocher won bronze at the European Short-Course Championships in Szczecin before Christmas.

The Ards swimmer said: “You don’t set yourself up for something you don’t think you can achieve. I knew I could go under 1:02, and that was what I was aiming for. Just like I know I’m capable of doing the Olympic time (in the 200) but it’s just whether it happens on the day.”

Lehesta Kemp of Players-RSA finished second, two seconds back, with 15-year-old from Kilkenny Jane Roberts in third, suffering the same fate as O’Sullivan, missing out on the European Juniors by 14-hundreths of a second.

Nuala Murphy of Trojan won the women’s 800 freestyle in 8:54.20, her delight tempered by a realisation that was eight seconds outside the European qualification mark, having swum 8:50 in the semis.

Murphy has already qualified in the 400 individual medley, but the 800 freestyle is her preferred event. Next week’s British Olympic Trials are her next target.

The night got off to a welcome start for Aer Lingus swimmer Conor Turner and Athlone’s Brendan Gibbons – in finishing second and third behind Andrew Meegan in the men’s 800m freestyle final, both qualified for the European Juniors in Helsinki, which take place the week before the Olympics.

Other winners were Niall Wynn in the men’s 400m individual medley, Waterford’s Shauna O’Brien in the women’s 50 butterfly – ahead of Leander’s Youth Olympics medallist Sycerika McMahon – and Lydia Kehoe surprised herself in winning the women’s 400 IM by three seconds from Templeogue’s Dayna Clegg. The New Ross swimmer is 13 years old.

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