Ireland's Nicole Turner qualifies for 400m freestyle final in Rio
IT WAS a relatively quiet sixth day of competition at the Paralympics in Rio, with Ireland having athletes competing in swimming and rifle shooting after the sailing was rescheduled.
It is now becoming clear the Irish paralympians will not get any way near the haul of 16 medals they amassed in London four-years-ago. The Irish tally this time remains at three medals - golds from bankers Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop on the track and a deserved bronze in the cycling from Galway man Eoin Clifford.
Meanwhile, Great Britain’s sport-targeted funding continues to pay dividends, with their domination of the track cycling and swimming putting them in second place on the medal table behind China.
Nicole Turner took to the water for the seventh time in five days to compete in the heats of the S6 400m freestyle. The 14-year-old Portarlington girl had complained of being tired before the race, but showed no signs of fatigue as she swam strongly for fourth place in the second semi-final to qualify for her fourth final at the games.
Turner has competed in events ranging from 50m to 400m and has yet to decide whether she is better suited to sprint or long-distance events. How she fares in the final may dictate where she concentrates her efforts in the next four years, leading up to Tokyo in 2020.
Ailbhe Kelly missed out on the final of the S8 100m backstroke after finishing sixth in her heat. The Castleknock teenager’s 1:29.48 timing placed her outside the top eight, who will contest what promises to be a very competitive decider, with all the finalists qualifying within eight seconds of each other.
On the shooting range, Phil Eaglesham finished 30th of the 34 competitors in the R5 mixed 10m rifle prone. The 34-year-old former British soldier from Dungannon contracted Q fever in Afghanistan in 2011 and took up shooting to help him deal with his condition. Eaglesham’s score of 626.3 was 10 points short of what would have been required to advance to the final.
The third race of the Sonar class sailing was rescheduled, meaning John Twomey, Ian Costelloe and Austin O'Carroll will have to wait until later on Wednesday for their third race.
Finishes of 10th and 14th leave the Irish boat 12th overall, but those results can be discarded on a scoring system that sees only the best eight finishes counting toward the medals.
Outside the city, Helen Kearney was unhappy with her result in the team test of the equestrian event on Monday night. The Wicklow rider recorded 68.000 per cent, placing her a lowly 20th of 26 competitors.
"I'm pretty disappointed with the score, I really thought I did everything I could," said Kearney, who was a medallist in London.
"The horse went really well, there were a few things I could have improved upon but, overall for day one, I was really pleased with the horse and with the test."
Ireland will feature in the seventh-place play-off against the USA on Wednesday (6pm) after suffering a defeat against Great Britain in their final group game of the seven-a-side Paralympic soccer tournament.
The Irish went into the game with their tails between their legs after losing 6-0 and 7-1 to Ukraine and Brazil respectively in their opening two games. It looked like another mauling was on the cards for the men in green when they conceded twice in the opening five minutes against a GB side hungry for their first win of the tournament.
Britain continued to press through the opening 30 minutes, with goalkeeper Brian McGillivary pulling off a series of outstanding stops to keep Ireland in the game. However, the game ended as a contest when Britain netted twice in first-half injury-time. The first of these came from a free kick that hit the post, before the ball rebounded off an Irish defender into the net.
The Irish side improved dramatically in the second-half and netted a consolation goal through Conor Tuite, who had come on as a substitute for Toome man Cormac Birt.
Great Britain sealed the victory with a fifth goal in the penultimate minute of normal-time: "I'm disappointed with the result, but the performance was much, much better," said Irish manager JJ Glynn.
"We've conceded early goals in all three games and, when you do that, it's an uphill task. We had the toughest group. If we had been in the other group, we might have made the semi-final."
Seaforde’s Bethany Firth goes for a third gold on Wednesday after wins in S14 200m freestyle and 100m backstroke. The 20-year-old lines up in the heats of the 100m breaststroke at 2pm, with the final scheduled for later on Wednesday.