The raw emotion was there for all to see as Larne swimmer, Danielle Hill, finally booked her place at this summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games.
The 21-year-old shed tears of joy as she broke her own Irish senior record to clock a time of 1:00.18 in the 100m backstroke. With the Olympic Consideration Time set at 1:00.25, Hill booked her ticket to Tokyo with .07s to spare. Hill is now the holder of the 50m and 100m backstroke as well as the 50m and 100m freestyle.
It was a long-time coming for Hill who went agonisingly close to qualification earlier in April at the Irish National Swimming Team Trials. The 21-year old, twice broke her own Irish senior record in the 100m backstroke but fell just short of realising her goal. Hill was left frustrated as she was .09 shy of the Olympic standard. Yet, all the disappointment and frustration quickly evaporated last night as Hill touched home in the 100m backstroke to secure her ticket to Tokyo.
“Anyone who knows me, knows I am not an emotional person. I don’t show emotion often, so these tears are real, and it wasn’t just about me tonight, that was for the whole Larne team.
“They have had the toughest 12 months, and when we joined back in with them, they treated Conor [Ferguson] and I like we were normal, and it was so nice to be around them again. That was most definitely for those guys I’m so relieved, and so happy. I know there is a faster time in there, but it still did the job.”
As well as 100m backstroke, Hill also owns the 50m and 100m freestyle Irish senior records and 50m backstroke. Her time of 25.19 in 50m freestyle makes her Ireland’s fastest ever female swimmer.
Also on Friday, Templeogue’s Ellen Walshe set her third Irish Senior Record of the week.
The 20-year-old clocked an impressive 2:13.17 in the morning heats of the 200m Individual Medley, lowering the long-standing record set by Grainne Murphy in 2009.
In the evening Walshe improved on this time significantly, clocking 2:12.02, which is under the FINA ‘A’ standard of 2:12.56 for the upcoming Olympic Games. Swim Ireland’s own selection policy for the Tokyo Games provides that to be in a position to qualify for the Games from this June Performance Meet, athletes had to be within 1.5% of the FINA ‘A’ standard at the Olympic Trials meet in April.
Prior to the meet, Swim Ireland named the 10 athletes who were in that position and Walshe was not one of them. The matter will be taken under consideration.
Speaking about the swim, Walshe said: “It just hurts, but I’m delighted with it. I still can’t believe it. I was just hoping I would be out faster than this morning. I was a little bit nervous tonight. I knew I had to try and stay calm, people were saying good luck to me and it gets into me sometimes.
“But I knew I had to try to stay chill, and it obviously works when I’m calm, I just swim so much better. I just can’t thank enough everyone who has got me to this point.”