Mona McSharry and Ellen Walshe got the home team off to a fantastic start at the LEN European Under 23 Swimming Championships 2023 at the Sport Ireland National Aquatic Centre to ensure Ireland ended the opening night of competition at the top of the medal table. McSharry and Walshe both clinched gold medals with Walshe also adding silver to her collection.
Mona McSharry got the finals of the LEN Dublin European U23 Championships 2023 off to the perfect start as she secured the first ever medal of the inaugural LEN U23 Championships in front of her home support in the Women’s 50m Breaststroke Final. McSharry won gold in a brilliant time of 30:37, powering home over the last 5 metres to edge ahead Italy’s Anita Bottazzo.
Speaking after her gold medal performance, McSharry said, “I was just going out there trying to race, have some fun and get my hands on the wall first. This morning was a pretty good race and I was just trying to top that and go faster, and I did so. I can’t but be happy with it, and then to come out with a gold is just awesome. It’s a great way to start the meet.”
Delighted to be competing in Ireland McSharry said “It’s amazing, I think coming into it I wasn’t sure what to expect but even yesterday in the build-up and hearing people were coming and having my family and friends and all being able to sit in the stands is just awesome you know, there’s just so many more familiar faces, it’s not just one or two it’s 90% of the crowd is Irish so that’s awesome!”
Ellen Walshe had an outstanding night in the pool as she was crowned European U23 Champion in the 200m individual Medley as well as winning 100m Butterfly silver.
Walshe’s first final was the 100m Butterfly, where she produced a stirring comeback. The Templeogue woman looked to be in trouble after the first 50 when she turned in eighth place overall, but she produced the fastest second 50m of any swimmer in the pool thundering home in 30.4 seconds to claim second place in 58.70, missing the gold medal by just 2 tenths of a second to Keanna McInnes from Great Britain.
Speaking about her silver medal performance, Walshe said, “ I knew it was going to be a tough one after three swims this morning. It’s not a personal best but it’s better than it has been so yeah, I’m happy enough with it.”
“It’s been tough since coming back from worlds, getting back into the swing of things. Having another home competition made things a little bit easier for me but, yeah, listen I’m happy enough with tonight’s swim and to come away with a medal for Ireland, we don’t often get that so, delighted.”
In contrast to the Butterfly race, it was Walshe that that was in control in the 200m Individual Medley as she claimed Ireland’s second gold medal of the day. Walshe’s time of 2:13.12 saw her reach the end narrowly in second place behind Justina Kozan, but as that swimmer is from the USA the gold medal goes to Walshe as the fastest European. In an exceptional race Walshe turned after 100 metres in first place before powering through in the Breaststroke leg to turn for home, knowing the American’s strongest stroke was her freestyle, Walshe battled gamely to hold on to the lead but was caught by Kozan in the end, nonetheless earning a second gold medal and second European U23 Championship for Ireland.
Speaking after the race Walshe said “I’ve never won a European medal in my life, I’ve got a youth medal but I haven’t got a European medal, it’s Under 23’s, it’s probably my only year I will be able to get this medal, so I’m delighted to take gold for the 200IM today.”
Maria Godden enjoyed a strong performance in her 50m Backstroke Final as she took two tenths of a second off her time from the morning heats to come home in sixth place in 28.98, a new personal best for the National Centre Limerick swimmer. It looked as if the race might have gotten away from her, but Godden dug deep in the final 25m to record an excellent sixth place in a strong race which was won by Tessa Giele from the Netherlands with a time of 27:96.
Grace Hodgins got her LEN Dublin European u23 Swimming Championships underway in the 800m Freestyle. Hodgins showed real grit throughout the gruelling event as she battled with South Africa’s Janie Coetzer. In the end Hodgins edged out Coetzer to take eighth place in a strong race which was won by Germany’s Isobel Gose in 8:20.8.
Competition continues throughout the weekend with gold medallists McSharry and Walshe both returning to action.