Catching up with Ellen Walshe after an outstanding week at the Irish Short Course Nationals in December, after breaking three Irish records, we discussed the possibility of breaking Shauna O’Brien’s 100m butterfly long course record in the coming year. Walshe knew it was possible and less than a month into 2020, she has etched her name into the history books as the first Irish woman to break a minute for 100m butterfly in a long course pool. O’Brien’s record from 2015 was 1.00.21 and the new record now stands at 59.54.
“I didn’t race 100m as much as I wanted last summer and I want to do more this year.” Closing 2019 with some excellent racing and 2020 off to a great start, Walshe has lots of great racing ahead this year.
Talented Templeogue swimmer Ellen Walshe was on form at the Irish Short Course Nationals in December 2019, walking away with two individual Irish Senior Records (50m & 100m butterfly) and a 4 x 100m Medley Relay Record which she broke with swimmers Danielle Hill, Niamh Coyne & Erin Riordan. Dipping under 4 minutes for the relay, in a time of 3.59.95, the team took over 15 seconds off the previous record from 1992. With several Irish records to her name, both junior and senior, Ellen Walshe is looking to make her mark in Irish swimming.
At 18 years old, Walshe is faced with sitting her Leaving Cert this upcoming June but there is no doubt that at this point in her life, swimming is her priority. “My house, school and the pool are all five minutes away from each other, which helps while I am training and in full time education. I don’t know how I find the time - my week is pretty crazy! I do 9 sessions a week in the pool, as well as 3 gym sessions.” On top of this Ellen Walshe is juggling school, study and a part-time job. Describing the toughness of the routine, Walshe is grateful for everything to be in close proximity “If I was training in the NAC something would have to give’”.
Ellen Walsh teaches swimming twice a week, something she enjoys doing and describes the feeling of independence. “I also do some work with Funkita and appreciate the support. I am in a 4 year cycle with them and they give me some equipment and financial support.”
Unsure of what she wants to study next year, Walshe expresses an interest in nursing but highlights the workload and how it may not be compatible with swimming. “Swimming is the priority.” Considering a gap year and exploring the options of further study, Walshe is sizing up what is right for her and her swimming career, trying to find the right move.
Since joining Templeogue Swim Club as a child, Ellen Walshe has continued to improve and progress, currently working with head coach, Brian Sweeney. With some of Ireland’s top swimmers operating out of development centres, Walshe comments “I like the routine I have. I’m still improving and I get what I need at Templeogue. I have a good bond with Brian and he knows me and understands me as an athlete. I get along with the team and like seeing them at competitions but I am happy where I am.”
With a demanding schedule, we ask Walshe about down time and hanging out with her friends. “I have an arrangement with my coach that once a month I get time to spend with my friends, time to socialise and not have to worry about training the next day. I spend time with my friends during the week, but that one day a month allows for a little more room. I have Sundays off training too."
In November 2019, Walshe competed in Aberdeen, where she first dipped under 27 seconds and claimed the 50m butterfly record in 26.65, taking .03 off the Irish record. Competing in the NAC at Irish Short Course Nationals, she dropped almost half a second to set the Irish record at 26.10. Speaking with Ellen Walshe, you know she is driven to push the record lower again and crack 26 seconds.
Having competed for Ireland from a young age, Walshe is familiar with the team, although they don’t all train together. Niamh Coyne, Danielle Hill, Mona McSharry, Emma Reid have all crossed paths before, whether competing against each other or as part of the national team. Walshe has competed at World School Juniors and the World Championships, as well as the European Youth Olympics. “I have been racing with Niamh Coyne since I was a child and I know her quite well. I like seeing the team at competitions and it was pretty cool to get the 4 x 100m Medley Relay record together. I like having something to aim for each summer, it motivates me and drives me forward.”
Ellen Walshe competed at the same EYOF competition as Irish track athletes Molly Scott and Ciara Neville. “It’s pretty cool to see them achieving good results. To see them still competing well, seeing other female athletes competing at the same level in a different sport is cool.”
What records will Walshe seek next? As a fantastic butterflier, holding all junior short course and two of three senior records, the 200m senior record is the only record that Walshe does not hold. Walshe swam a time of 2.09.94 at Irish Short Course Nationals in December, Michelle Smith’s record of 2.07.04 still stands from 1997. The young talent will keep inching closer and closer - anything is possible. Also at Irish Short Course Nationals, Walshe swam 400m Individual Medley in a time of 4.38.38, less than two seconds away from the current record of 4.36.84, also held by Michelle Smith. This record has stood since 1994 and it is looking very attainable for Tempelogue’s talented Ellen Walshe. “I may focus more on the IM this year, I’ll wait and see what happens.”