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The Team Ireland swim team completed their most successful Olympic Games in 25 years on Friday with one final and five Irish senior records.
They signed off from Tokyo 2020 in style as Team Ireland athlete Daniel Wiffen smashed the Irish Senior Record in the 1500m Freestyle with a time of 15:07.69, his second such Record of the Games.
The 20-year-old from Magheralin had set a new Irish Senior Record of 15:16.90 at the Irish National Team Trials in April, days after qualifying for the Olympic Games in 800m Freestyle with another new Irish Senior Record of 7:52.68.
Wiffen again set two new records at the Games in these events, taking the 800m down to 7:51.65 and impressively wiping nearly 10 seconds off the 1500m mark.
Based at Loughborough University, Wiffen also won his heat in both events and moved up six places in the rankings in the 1500m to finish 20th overall.
He said: “I loved it! It was a fun race, I enjoyed it, taking it all in and got a nine-second personal best time as well!
“My target was to go and PB and try and get closer to the 15-minute barrier. I’m obviously closer now, seven seconds off. The tactic was just to get in, if there’s a racer, race with them. If not, I had to assess it during the race and pick it up if I wasn’t going fast enough.”
He added: “It’s been great! I’ve been having so much fun here, I’m so happy to be here. Next, I’m definitely going to have a long break, maybe go on holiday!”
Fellow Olympic debutant and Team Ireland swimmer Danielle Hill also finished her Tokyo 2020 campaign on Friday in the 50m Freestyle where she posted 25.70 to be sixth in her heat and 33rd overall.
Hill said: “Although I may be the fastest woman in Ireland, it’s a very different field out here – it was nice to gain that experience.
“As I said before I went in, you sit in the house and you watch the Olympics and this is the event that you want to do. It’s the one you want to be successful in.
“I’m not quite there yet, but I can walk away with a few things to improve and definitely looking forward to next year.”
The 21-year-old from Larne now looks ahead to making her International Swimming League debut with multiple World and Olympic Champions Katinka Hosszu’s Team Iron.
She said: “I just took a chance and entered myself into the draft. I was so lucky to have two teams looking for me. I decided to go with Team Iron because of the atmosphere that they create and the guys that I will be training with as well – it’s going to be phenomenal.”
Speaking about her first Olympic Games, she added: “I still don’t think it’s sunk in that I qualified six weeks ago. It’s been a whirlwind experience, right from the Trials in April through the Europeans and second Trials and now here. I don’t think I’ve had a chance at any point to breathe and take a step back.
“For anyone who knows the journey I have been on in the past two weeks just to get here and be standing is something that I can be proud of. It’s been a great experience, and I can’t wait for many more.”
National Performance Director Jon Rudd gave his thoughts on Team Ireland’s swimming team’s performance at the Games.
“This is our best Olympic swimming result for a long time and I am extremely proud of these nine athletes and all that they have achieved,” he said.
“The staff here have been amazing in preparing them across the course of three weeks and we also have to thank and congratulate the coaches in the home programmes that got them here and helped us en route.
“An Olympic Final plus the equivalent of two semi-finals (Top-16 finishes) is outstanding for us, as is achieving five Irish Senior Records across seven days of racing.
“We had 15 swims in total and in 13 of them, we rose through the rankings or held our pre-meet position. It’s all fantastic work from and within this team – and we are excited at what this team can achieve in three years time when Paris comes calling”.
Team Ireland now turns its aquatic attention to diving, which begins on Monday when Rio 2016 Olympian Oliver Dingley competes in the preliminary round of 3m Springboard.
On Wednesday, Tanya Watson becomes Ireland’s first-ever female diver to compete at the Olympic Games when she steps up for the preliminary round of the 10m Platform.