Swimming in the fast lane

Rio 2016: Interview

Doubling up: Quinn will swim in both the 100m breaststroke and the 200m breaststroke in Rio. Photo: Sportsfile.

Doubling up: Quinn will swim in both the 100m breaststroke and the 200m breaststroke in Rio. Photo: Sportsfile.

Eight years on from Mayo's last Olympian, cyclist David O'Loughlin who raced in the 4km Pursuit event in Beijing and 20 years on from Ballina's Deirdre Gallagher's 23rd place finish in the 10k race walk in Atlanta 1996, Mayo's newest Olympian will dive into action tomorrow afternoon.

Castlebar's Nicholas Quinn will be missing the opening ceremony of the games this evening, because tomorrow afternoon he will be getting his feet and hands wet for the first time in the 100m breaststroke heats. For the 23-year-old University of Edinburgh student, this has been a dream 16 years in the making. Last month the Olympian was in Castlebar and he sat down with the Mayo Advertiser to look ahead to the games which start tomorrow.

Colm Gannon (CG ): Can you remember the first time you watched swimming in the Olympics?

Nicholas Quinn (NQ ): I can, I remember watching Sydney in 2000. I was only seven then, I remember watching Ian Thorpe and being amazed by it. I think the main reason I was watching it was because Darragh [brother] was into it, I remember him recording it on video and replaying it, and watching Thorpe breaking records in his super suit. Then on to Athens and Bejing was the first time I was seriously swimming and watching Andrew Bree because he's the same event as me and I remember watching him in the heat and making the semi-final, he missed out on the final by 0.1 of a second, I just remember being in awe of it.

CG: That 0.1 of a second in swimming terms can be a lifetime I guess?

NQ: It is, the margins are very, very, small and the way it's gone now, everyone is bunched up all together, there is no big gap. In years gone by you'd have the guy who comes first a couple of seconds ahead of the rest, that's not the case anymore. The middle lanes are the fast lanes, you have races now where you have a blanket line of eight swimmers who are grouped and all so close together, everyone is bunching up and catching up behind the best times in the world, half a second there can move in terms of rankings up 10 to 15 places in the middle of the pack.

CG: How hard is it to get to that level?

NQ: It's small margins, it's a continually moving goalpost, it's just getting faster and faster and faster.

CG: Does that worry you, that there is something going on with some that shouldn't be going on?

NQ: No, it doesn't worry me. All of that is out of my control, if it's happening and I know there's a lot of talk in sports at the minute, you just have to focus on what you can do.

CG: Back in April you achieved the qualifying time, when you looked up and saw the clock, what was that feeling like?

NQ: Funnily enough, I looked and saw the wrong time and I thought I hadn't qualified, but then I quickly realised I had. Then it was just a combination of relief and thrill, it didn't really sink in until a couple of days later. Straight away I went and wanted to find my coach Chris Jones up in the crowd, finding him and I don't know.

CG: Did the world just stop around you and leave you in that moment?

NQ: "Yeah, it's hard to put into words, it was more of a case I wanted to celebrate with the people who had helped me get there, because I couldn't have made it without them, Chris in the crowd, then mam and dad were there too, I straight away found them the far side of the pool and dad was there waving a flag, it was just amazing.... amazing.

CG: How long was the planning and working towards that one event?

NQ: "I knew since September, I was looking for a competition in Europe around that weekend in April, because they had the British trials around then and all the rest of my squad in Edinburgh were going to that and aiming to be peaking for that. I've done it before and peaked on my own, but it's a bit hard and lonely and you can feel isolated and it's not much fun, so we looked to get it as close to then. We looked around and found this Eindhoven meet and I knew a guy who'd swam it before and said it was a good meet and run really well and it was mimicking the Olympics. So the heats would be raced at 12 in the afternoon and then finals at 10pm at night local time, following the same routine, so it was a good chance to try that out too. So since September, I was right this is what we are going to focus on and that was my first time, we're really giving this a crack and set out at that and then Europeans a month later, were like my two shots at this.

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CG: Once you made it, the pressure was off for Europeans so it was just about ticking over?

NQ: Yes, once I qualified we changed it round, if I hadn't, it would have been a little peak up in training for Europeans and then rest, so I was peak performing in London for those. But once I qualified, it was train straight through and use it as an exercise or a training camp to practice race skills and tactics.

CG: So it's not just go as fast as you can?

NQ: No, it's the most thing I've figured out this year, what's the best way for me to swim the 200m breast stroke, just to be really controlled over the first part of the race to save as much energy as I can, but still be fast and be able to come home strong then.

CG: Being an Olympian, that must be an amazing feeling?

NQ: When I pick up my gear it'll make it all the more real [Nicholas' gear actually went missing in transit back to Edinburgh the day after he picked it up, but it did turn up safe and well a few days later]. I remember I went to the youth Olympics when I was 14 or 15 and the rings were on the gear, and I remember thinking, how many people who have gone to the Youth Olympics have gone on to be actual Olympians. I was thinking, imagine going to the Olympics. To actually do it, I don't think it's really sunk in. I know I'm going to the Olympics, but I think it's not sunk in about being an Olympian.

CG: Everyone dreams of winning a medal but it's a huge step to get there, so what is the goal?

NQ: You have to be realistic, it'd be amazing, I don't think I could even think what it would be like. But all I can focus on is to go in and peak perform, and if I peak perform and put myself in a position where I go and swim as fast as I can. But maybe everyone performs really well as well, maybe it's not good enough to get a second swim, but if I can go there and swim to the best I can, the rest is out of my control.

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CG: In all championships, a certain amount of people don't perform as expected and if they don't and you do, it could push you on?

NQ: The Olympics is such a big thing, it's kind of known that at major championships, a lot of people don't perform, especially in the heats in the morning for whatever reason, they get caught out and don't perform as well as they can. So I know if I can do it, and swim a PB, I'll put myself in a good position to get a second swim, and after that, I'll just have to reassess and see what we can do from there, but the one thing I can control is to try and peak perform and get there and if I do that, I'll be there or thereabouts to getting a second swim.

CG: Post Olympics is there a big plan, a medal at a Europeans is that achievable?

NQ: "It's hard to know, swimming is a bit mad, but it's something I'd like to go for. To win a major medal is where you want to be, we just have to keep going, next year we'll have Worlds and World university games so that'll be the focus for next year, so I just have to keep improving and give myself every opportunity to do that and on any day at those kind of meets, someone doesn't perform and you do, you put yourself in a position. To win a medal at an international championships is the dream.

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