Interview with Olympic swimmer Finn McGeever

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“It was a nice reward for all the training you’re doing to be able to say that you went to the Europeans Juniors and the same goes for if I make it to the Olympics. It’s the best reward one can get from their sport.”

Finn McGeever is a 20-year-old University of Limerick student. He is in his second year of studying Maths and Physics and he has now qualified for the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.

Finn has been part of the National Transition swimming squad in Limerick for a few years, reaching the European Junior Championships in 2018 in Helsinki, Sweden. Now, he is weeks away from being part of Irelands Olympic team as part of the 4x200m relay in freestyle swimming.

With the help of his coaches Mickey McCarthy and John Suranic, Finn, along with his squad in Limerick, trains nine times a week, mornings, and evenings.

“It’s you and your three friends and you’re lining up in a call room. And there’s all these other countries from around the world, four from every country … you’ve got your three guys to trust and everyone else is the enemy.”

All the hard work has paid off

It has been a hard road for Finn to reach this level of swimming, less than two years ago he broke his left arm, and a bad run of form before the pandemic made him think that he was “nearly ready to hang up the hat and goggles.”

When the lockdown was enforced on the country, swimmers could not train so Finn was able to get a break from the constant sport.

By practicing from home with a punching bag and Zoom classes with his teammates and coaches, as well as swimming in the Lough Derg with his mother, Roisin, Finn was able to find his form and his speed.

“Before when I was swimming bad, swimming was just my entire life. I was in college and I wasn’t going out much because of swimming and I just think it was the wrong decision. A happy swimmer is a fast swimmer, so I learned to enjoy myself.”

What is it like on a relay team?

To make the Irish relay team, Finn had to stay in the top four freestyle swimmers in the country. The Irish team qualified for the Olympics after receiving an invitation for two athletes from FINA.

Although the four men who make this team all train in different parts of the country, they will be expected to get to know each other and work together by Tokyo in August.

“I want to place top four but at the same time I want top four to be really fast … It will be a transition from seeing each other as opponents to seeing each other as teammates at the Olympics.”

What will the Olympics hold for the young swimmer?

There were concerns about how this Olympics would go ahead during the pandemic, if events would be downsized to lower the numbers there.

Finn is choosing to block out these thoughts. In Japan, he will focus on fixing his sleep schedule and keeping his swimming form.

Finn’s mindset towards swimming has changed, he understands that he has earned the recognition he has gotten.

“Duncan Scott, I could end up swimming against him or swimming beside him … that’s cool, I think maybe a year ago that would have been scary, but I’ve just changed my way of thinking. I have earned the right to be here, I could embrace the challenge and see how close I can get to him.”

The young swimmer’s personal best speed for the 200m freestyle in just over 1m 49secs, about seven seconds shy of the world record by Paul Biedermann.

Growing up Finn didn’t follow swimming and took inspiration from watching the older swimmers in his club at training.

“It’s all good and well saying Michael Phelps, this crazy superhuman motivated me but the main people who motivated me were the older swimmers who I trained with because they were there every day, moving me on.”

He has an even brighter future after the Olympics

The future seems bright for the young swimmer. Experts say that swimmers reach their peak between 24 and 28 so Finn has a lot of time to keep improving.

“I’m just hopeful anyway for the future of my swimming just because things are kind of going well and when this is happening, sport almost feels like you can’t be stopped. It just feels great.”

“Next year, when the season starts in September, I think it could be an opportunity for some exciting things to be done, in terms of different strokes and maybe trying to get a record under my belt.”

Last month Finn shocked himself by breaking the 400m Irish freestyle record, to read more about it click here

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