Paralympics Ireland has announced a very competitive team to represent Ireland at the Paralympic (IPC) Swimming European Open Championships which will take place in Funchal, Portugal, from May 1st to May 7th.
The Irish team, which is sponsored by Allianz, is made up of World Championship bronze medallist and double Paralympian (Beijing 2008 and London 2012) Ellen Keane along with fellow London Paralympians, James Scully and Jonathan McGrath. The team also features Ailbhe Kelly and Nicole Turner who made their debut on the international stage at the 2015 World Championships, while 14-year-old Barry McClements is competing in his first international championship.
The Championships are the last chance for swimmers to secure qualification times for the upcoming Games in Rio. However, due to the ‘open’ nature of the event, it is not just limited to European athletes, but instead, some of the best swimmers from around the world will also be competing.
“We’ve just returned from a really positive event in Holland, where the team trained hard and competed well. We have been fine-tuning final preparations since, and we are now in good shape heading into these Championships,” stated team manager, Hayley Burke.
Indeed, the upcoming event is set to be a tough but exciting test for the squad. 21-year-old Dubliner Ellen Keane, who secured a World Championship bronze medal in the 200 IM in 2015, is hoping to compete at her third Paralympic Games in Rio this year having made her debut at the Games at Beijing in 2008 at the age of just 13, while fellow National Aquatic Centre club swimmer James Scully, who claimed two European bronze medals in 2014, will be targeting Personal Best performances in the 100m and 200m freestyle.
Meanwhile, Clare athlete Jonathan McGrath is also looking to put in a big performance and will have an unusually busy schedule as he races in all seven events in the S8 classification. Elsewhere, 17-year-old Ailbhe Kelly is competing in her third major international having debuted at the European Championships in 2014. Ailbhe has achieved two Rio Minimum Qualification Standard times in the S8 400m Freestyle and 100m Backstroke and will be hoping to final in these events.
13-year-old Nicole Turner is competing in her second major senior Championships and will be aiming to challenge for a medal in the SB6 100m Breaststroke and also to final in multiple events. Barry McClements, meanwhile, is looking forward to his debut on the Irish senior team, having qualified for the Championships at the Gerry Ryan Gala earlier this year. He too will swim in all seven events for his class in order to reach requirements for international classification.
There will be live coverage of the Championships here: https://www.paralympic.org/funchal-2016 and Paralympics Ireland will be issuing press releases daily with details of the Irish performances. Sportsfile will be issuing images of the Irish swimmers reproduction fee free during the event.
The Irish team is proudly sponsored by Allianz, an official sponsor of Paralympics Ireland.