In early 2020, 18 year old Ellen Walshe etched her name into history books.
She became the first Irish woman to break a minute for 100m butterfly in a long course pool. Shauna O’Brien’s record from 2015 was 1.00.21 and the new record now stands at 59.54.
Walshe has broken a lot of records since then and aims to break a few more, as she prepares for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Walshe has been swimming since joining as a child with Templeogue Swimming Club, She still trains there now with coach Brian Sweeney, and coaches younger kids in her spare time, undoubtedly inspiring the next generation.
''I love working at the pool and training. It’s a busy schedule but I love teaching kids and giving back to the community and the place that’s given me so much.''
The delayed Olympics has given her a chance to improve further and she managed to book her ticket to Tokyo for Team Ireland.
In June 2020, she was studying for her Leaving Cert, while balancing training and a part-time job. It was a busy time but in her eyes, worth it.
''My house, school and the pool are all five minutes away from each other which is a big help. I was doing 9 sessions a week in the pool, as well as 3 gym sessions.”
She has recently signed for University of Tennessee, where she will continue her training while balancing academic studies. Moving away can be daunting, but Walshe will join teammate Mona McSharry at the university, which will help her settle in.
''After finishing school I knew I had a big decision to make with swimming.
I knew I would have to move to the National Aquatic Centre and go to college in Dublin to make it work. The NAC is great, but it makes it hard to train and study full-time as part of a team. In America, it’s a big college and can fit everything at the one place It’s very exciting.
As a fantastic butterflier, she currently holds all junior short course and two of three senior records. The only woman to hold a quicker time is the infamous Michelle Smith, which was set back in 1997. Her 200m record is 2.04.04, while Walshe's current one is 2.09.94.
The young talent will keep inching closer and closer – anything is possible. She's looking forward to getting into the waters in Japan and hopefully enjoying it.
''I’m only 19, and honestly I was more looking at Paris 2024 as the goal. So for now, I want to get out there and have fun.
I've struggled with nerves and confidence in other events but I love the 200m, which has made me stronger. To enjoy what i do is the most important, and hopefully personal bests and medals will come in time.