Times are everything in swimming but Mona McSharry is learning to ignore the clock and reap the rewards.
The Sligo swimmer progressed through to the semi-finals of the women’s 100m breaststroke today with an excellent effort that was just 0.1 second off her PB and franking the feeling that she is Ireland’s best shot at making a final in the superb Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
“Really excited. It was really nice to do that and watching Ellen (Walsh win her heat) yesterday and the buzz she came back with just pushed me on. It really is something else competing at the Olympics and I’m so glad that I’ve got the first race done now and I’m so happy that I get to do another one.”
McSharry’s time of 1:06.39 was enough to see her finish ninth of the 16th who qualified for the next stage but the driver for her at these Games is a more elemental one - and it’s what pushed her on when the going got tough in the closing stretches.
“I really burned coming up the last 25 and I could see the Swiss coming up on the right of me. I just thought no, she’s not going to touch me. I almost thought she had me coming onto the wall so I really pushed the last 10 metres and I’m glad I did because I got in in front of her.”
Another motivator, McSharry agreed, was the presence in the same pool of South Africa's Tatjana Schoemaker whose time of 1:04.82 was a new Olympic record.
This focus on the race itself and not the digits they post has served her well and it owes itself to her placement in the University of Tennessee where she got to race more than most during the pandemic and just finished her freshman year.
“It’s just been amazing,” she said of her time in the States. “It’s a lot of competition. I enjoy it, I’ve made so many friends.
“It’s taken me away from times and just getting your hands on the wall first and competing and that is why we do this: to compete and race against people with that adrenalin rush you get.
“I had been so long training and long coursing by myself that it all got about times and it just got in my head a little bit and now I’m just back to racing.” She races again on Monday morning Tokyo time.