“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."
Paralympics Ireland has announced a very competitive team to represent Ireland at the IPC Swimming European Open Championships which will take place in Funchal, Portugal, from 30 April-7 May.
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, who will appear at her second European Championships, and Nicole Turner who made her 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. Dubliner Ellen Keane, 21, who secured a World Championship bronze medal in the 200m individual medley SM9 in 2015, is hoping to compete at her third Paralympic Games in Rio this year having made her debut at the Paralympic Games at Beijing in 2008 at the age of just 13.
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 S5.
Meanwhile, Clare athlete Jonathan McGrath is also looking to put in a big performance and hopes to achieve the Rio minimum qualification standard time in the 400m freestyle S8.
Elsewhere, 17-year-old Ailbhe Kelly is competing in her third major international, having debuted at the European Championships in 2014. Kelly has achieved two Rio 2016 minimum qualification standard times in the 400m freestyle and 100m backstroke S8 and will be hoping to reach the final in these events.
Thirteen-year-old Nicole Turner is competing in her second major senior Championships and will be aiming to challenge for a medal in the 100m breaststroke SB6 and get to the finals 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 men’s S9 events in order to reach requirements for international classification.
There will be live coverage of the Championships at Funchal2016.com and Paralympics Ireland will be issuing press releases daily with details of the Irish performances.
The morning sessions get underway at 9:00 (WET) each day and the afternoon sessions at 17:00.
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.