Gráinne Murphy came agonisingly close to breaking Michelle Smith de Bruin’s Irish record in the final of the women’s 200m freestyle on the opening day of the Carlton Irish National Swimming and Olympic Trials at the National Aquatic Centre (NAC) in Dublin yesterday.
Murphy, who has already qualified for the Olympics, held off the challenge of 16-year-old Sycerika McMahon, the double European junior champion, to win in a time of two minutes 00.02 seconds, just nine-hundredths of a second outside the time de Bruin set in winning the gold medal at the Europeans in Seville in 1997.
The 18-year-old European silver medallist now travels to the British trials in London at the weekend where she will compete in four events; the 200m and 400m individual medleys plus the 400m and 800m freestyles. With Murphy departing the nationals, the spotlight now falls on Melanie Nocher and McMahon, who are also bidding for Olympic A standard times at the NAC.
Nocher’s main event is the 200m backstroke, the heats of which are on tomorrow morning with the final that night. Nocher will have to go sub-two minutes to get on the plane to London and her Irish record is currently nine-tenths of a second shy of that.
Last night the European Short Course silver medallist tuned up for her assault on the 200m backstroke A standard time, with a 100m backstroke semi-final win in a quick 62.19 seconds, having pulled out of the 200m freestyle decider and a race against Gráinne Murphy and Sycerika McMahon. McMahon’s main event is the 100m breaststroke and the heats of that event are this morning.
McMahon may have finished second to Murphy yesterday but picked up her first gold medal of the week when winning the 50m breaststroke final.
Meanwhile, Kilkenny’s women’s relay squad set a new Irish junior record of four minutes 4.25 seconds in taking gold in the final of the 4x100m freestyle relay.
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