August 06, 2021

Jon Rudd, Swim Ireland's National Performance Director and Tokyo 2020 Team Leader for Swimming and Diving, now reflects on an incredible Olympic Games for Irish aquatics.

During this Games, Team Ireland achieved a first Olympic swimming final in 25 years, five Irish Senior Records, two semi-final performances and two additional top 16 finishes.

There were nine Olympic debuts and two two-time Irish aquatic Olympians created, amongst the biggest aquatic Team Ireland has ever sent to a Games - and within that was the first time our diving team featured a female, and more than one diver.

Within that was also Ireland's first Olympic men's swimming relay team, and a first relay team of any make-up in 49 years.

"Having spent the best part of a month in Japan now, we can reflect back on both camp and competition and take a great deal of comfort and pride in what has been achieved in both swimming and diving at these Olympic Games

Our preparation camp in Hamamatsu was extremely productive and the work undertaken by Fukuroi City, Dentsu, the OFI and the ToBio Pool, in conjunction with Swim Ireland to make it so, was a long and careful process.

Our swimmers and divers benefited hugely from this and it prepared them as we would have hoped before departing for the Olympic Village

Our swimmers achieved so much during the nine days of Olympic swimming competition and we have made a significant step towards that which we ultimately seek - an Olympic swimming medal.

A team of nine is not insignificant, and was our largest swimming team ever and it's been written many times before now that this included our first relay in almost 50 years.

The interview post-relay symbolised this Team - collective, passionate, positive and respectful of the athletes that had helped this relay to qualify.

Mona McSharry's Final in the 100m Breaststroke is wonderful for now and exciting for Paris, particularly as it was our first swimming final for 25 years.

The fact that almost all of our 15 swims saw us rise through the rankings is testament to the culture and belief within this group of athletes - something that the next generation can look to and learn from, because three years will be over in the blink of an eye, Paris will be upon us and an additional group of athletes will join us on that adventure.

Five Irish Senior Records achieved in the most challenging of arenas is another element from within this Team that we can celebrate - because that is athletes swimming faster than any other countryman or woman has done before - and it has been done on the grandest of stages. Congratulations to Mona, Daniel Wiffen, Jack McMillan and Shane Ryan for achieving this feat.

In diving, we were excited to be bringing our first team that consisted of more than one athlete, and one which included our first ever female diver at a Games. And what a terrific job Tanya Watson did to make a semi final at such a tender age.

Oliver Dingley became Ireland's first two-time Olympian in this sport and we had our largest team at an Olympic Games since 1908. It sounds good and it feels good!

This would not have been possible without belief and support. This starts with the Swim Ireland CEO and the Board in empowering a Performance programme within these sports.

Sport Ireland, Sport Northern Ireland and the Olympic Federation of Ireland believe in us, believe in what we are doing and have supported us tremendously across this five year period.

There are coaches out there working with these athletes every day and they do so tirelessly and with great passion - and they have done this despite the challenges that COVID have given us over the last 18 months.

We are indebted to them.

And finally, the accredited staff here, supported by the OFI and practitioners from the Sport Ireland Institute/Sport Northern Ireland Sport Institute have done a remarkable job in getting these athletes to stand up and deliver when it matters - and so it is hats off to Ben Higson, Damian Ball, Paul Talty, Steven Beckerleg and Thomas Divilly for their highly significant role in all of this

There are some exciting changes and developments for the period 2021-2024 - so watch this space, because standing still in these two sports is, in reality, moving backwards.

And we've still some catching to do, but the gap just got a little smaller. So we will see you in September Swim Ireland - we've still got some work to do, but it's now going to be even more exciting doing it."

To find out more about the aquatic team and support staff that went to Tokyo 2020, visit: Your Guide to Irish Aquatics at Tokyo 2020.