Not many Paralympic finalists would admit their dislike of an event they happen to have a special ability for, but then again teenage swimming prodigy Nicole Turner is not your average Paralympian, writes Cathal Dennehy.
The 14-year-old from Portarlington finished eighth in the S6 400m freestyle final this evening in 5:54.61, a race won by Ukraine’s Yelyzaveta Mereshko in 5:17.01. It was Turner’s fourth consecutive final in Rio, but what made the feat more impressive was that this was far from her strongest pursuit.
Late on Monday night, after competing in the 200m individual medley final, Turner admitted that she was almost dreading the thought of the assignment. “I’m not a fan of it,” she admitted. “It’s too far for me.”
However, she emerged as competitive as ever in the morning, qualifying for the final of the 400m freestyle with a season’s best of 5:51.99. “I thought I might be in two or three finals, but to get in four is incredible,” said Turner. “I went in hoping for a PB, to get in the final I knew would be a fight but I made it. I’m chuffed with that.”
Turner has emerged as one of the swimming stars of the Irish team this week, marking herself down as a name who will undoubtedly return and win medals at several future Games. That, however, may not be possible for shooter Phillip Eaglesham, who finished 30th in the R5 mixed 10m rifle prone.
The Royal Marine from Dungannon contracted Q Fever six years ago while on duty in Afghanistan, a rare illness caused by airborne bacteria which has left him wheelchair bound and has meant his health has been in an incurable, degrading state in recent years.
Family time! Phillip Eaglesham with his three after he competed in the Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone SH2 Qualifier! pic.twitter.com/quaso0gij0— Sportsfile (@sportsfile) September 13, 2016
While admitting that just being here was something of a success in itself, Eaglesham nonetheless believed he hadn’t done himself justice. “I’m not happy with the performance but I beat myself,” he said. “Maybe it was the occasion that beat me. I’d like to do it over again, but I get one chance. It’s still been an absolutely amazing experience. If we can inspire one or two people to do something great in their lives, that’s what it’s all about.”
Elsewhere, swimmer Ailbhe Kelly brought her Paralympics to a close by finishing sixth in her heat of the S8 100m backstroke in 1:29.48. “It’s been amazing,” she said. “This is not like anything else, on a different level even to a world championship. It’s weird to think I’m finished now after four years of training, but I’m looking forward to relaxing and cheering on the others for the rest of the week. My road to Tokyo starts next week.”
In sailing, the Irish three-man crew of John Twomey, Ian Costelloe and Austin O’Carroll finished in 13th place in race three afternoon, putting them in 12th place overall. The scheduled race four was cancelled due to low winds, but they will be back in action tomorrow.