Ireland’s Olympic ‘Flame’fired up

Her name means ‘Flame’ in Indian and Sycerika McMahon’s star is certainly burning bright after a week in which the teenager bagged Olympic qualification and a European silver medal.

The Portaferry starlet only turned 17 last month but looked to the manor born amongst the continent’s elite swimmers in Hungary last week.

McMahon was at the Aviva Stadium yesterday to launch the Volunteers in Irish Sport Awards. Having just flown into Dublin the night before, the Leander swimmer was exhausted and looking forward to returning home.

But recounting the events in Debrecen brought a smile to her face.

“It was my first senior Europeans so it was really exciting,” said McMahon. “At the start of the week you’re fired up for it and excited. As the week went on you grew more fatigued both mentally and physically. But for the last few days, you just try to keep pushing it at the same level.”

The target for the championships was the Olympic ‘A’ Qualifying time for the 100m breaststroke and that was secured in the heats yesterday week. She finished fifth in the final the following day and helped the 4x200m freestyle relay team finish sixth before rounding it all off sensationally with a silver medal in the 50m breaststroke on Sunday.

“I was just so excited because, even though it’s not an Olympic event, I really love the 50 metres. I was fired up and excited. Going in second (fastest) was a great boost because they’re the top swimmers in Europe at senior level. So it was just exciting to stand up there with them all.”

McMahon was just about an eyelash away from gold but though there was a fleeting flash of disappointment, in truth it lasted about as long as the time that separated her from the top spot on the podium.

“I just wanted a medal. Well, firstly, there were these wee (toy) dogs you get with the medal that I really wanted!” she laughed.

“When you touch the wall, a circle appears next to your name if you come first, second or third. So when I saw the grey circle, as in silver, I was really happy. Then I found out it was only .02 of a second from first. So I suppose I was slightly disappointed… but no, I was just so happy.”

It must be surreal to be asked which of the twin achievements rates more highly: booking her place in London or annexing her first senior European medal to her cluster of junior successes. Unsurprisingly, it’s not a call she can make.

“I wouldn’t split them. To get the Olympic qualifying time was what I went there for. To get it on my first swim was fantastic because so much pressure was off and I could sit back and enjoy the week. It was a shock to get it in the first race.

“Then the silver was great. It wasn’t expected, it being my first time in the competition, so it was really good.”


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