Banks: Swimmers on the right road

Ireland may not be claiming any medals in London’s Aquatic Centre this month but Swim Ireland’s National Performance Director believes the time is fast approaching when the country’s elite swimmers will be targeting podium places on the world stage.

Peter Banks yesterday described the four-strong team of Gráinne Murphy, Barry Murphy, Melanie Nocher and Sycerika McMahon as the best prepared in Irish history but stressed the bar must continue to be raised in the years to come.

All four qualified for the Games with A standards and, in that, Banks described them as a vanguard for a new generation to come.

“We have set a standard in Irish swimming now that we can never go back from,” said Banks in Dublin.

“We’ve put in place an A standard and, from there, every other generation of swimmers coming along will now know that the A standard is the one they will have to get to get to the Olympic Games.

“We have competed well in the last three or four years at European junior and senior level and we have medalled at those particular events. Our next challenge and next task is to compete at the world stage.”

Ireland’s quartet were among 438 qualifiers who achieved the A grade and Banks has set very specific targets for the team which will be led into the pool by Murphy who competes in the women’s 440m individual medley heats on Saturday morning.

“Our goal is to have our swimmers in top 16,” said Banks who will be coaching at his fifth Olympics. If we can get the swimmers that are here to reach a top-16 place we’d be very, very pleased.

“We’ve also set a standard of hopefully somebody getting a top-eight place. We’re not going to stake our lives on that because we know how tough that is. We want them to go in and achieve the best that they possibly can achieve on the day.

“They know how tough it is going to be to compete at the top. But I think they are going in with a different mindset to any other group we’ve ever had and I think the expectation of top 16 is a very good expectation to have.”

That said, Banks added that lifetime bests will be required of the Irish who travel to London tomorrow if those targets are to be met as he predicted a fast meet where a number of world records willfall.

Nocher is the only one of the four who has competed in a games before – in Beijing four years ago – while Murphy spoke yesterday of his delight at making the 2012 event having missed out by just one-tenth of a second in 2008.

“I feel good. I mean, this is a dream come true for me,” said the Dubliner who almost quit the sport after missing out on Beijing.

“When I got in the sport it was to be an Olympian and I’m sitting up here talking to you guys and we’re only a couple of days away until I fulfil that dream. I feel good about it.

“I’m just going to embrace the moment really, and enjoy it.

“I’m just going to take it like another meet.”

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