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Turner strikes silver with swim of her life at Tokyo Paralympics

Ireland's Nicole Turner celebrates winning a silver medal in the Women's S6 50M Butterfly Final at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games in Tokyo
 
Picture: INPHO/Delly Carr
BY MALCOLM McCAUSLAND

ANOTHER day and another medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games for Ireland’s super Paralympians as Nicole Turner produced the performance of her life to grab runner-up spot in the S6 50m butterfly.

The 19-year-old Portarlington swimmer touched home in 36.30 seconds to claim Ireland’s fourth medal of the Games. Turner was fifth in Rio but has improved markedly since then to emerge as one of the best in the world in her category.

"It hasn't sunk in at all," she said afterwards. “The aim after Rio was to get on the podium in Tokyo but I never in a million years thought it would be silver - I always thought it would be a fight for bronze.

"I think I was shaking before the race even started to be honest! The past five years have been pretty challenging, but I suppose the extra year did me justice."

Turner won a silver medal in the Youth category of the British Internationals on her senior international debut in 2015 and went on to reach six finals and swim personal bests in each at that year’s World Championships in Glasgow.

The following year, she won three medals (two silver and one bronze) at the European Championships and, despite being only 14 at the time, reached five finals at the Paralympics in Rio, where her best placing was fifth in the S6 50m butterfly.

In 2018, she claimed silver in 50m butterfly at the European Championships in Dublin and two years ago won bronze in 50m butterfly at the 2019 World Championships in London. Earlier this year, she won medals in all four of her events at the European Championships in Madeira.

Nicole started swimming with Portarlington Piranhas before moving to Laois Marlins in Portlaoise. She relocated to train with Ireland’s top swimmers at the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin in 2017 and in 2019, after completing transition year, she deferred her secondary school studies to train fulltime for Tokyo.

She was quick to pay tribute to the support from Team Turner and the legion of fans cheering her on back in Portarlington.

"It's not just for me,” she said. “My coach Dave Malone has given up every hour of the day to come in, all sorts of times to train me. My S&C coach Niamh Buffini has taken me one-to-one for the last two years now.

“And then my mam and my dad. My mam drives me to and from training every day. Without her I wouldn't be standing here today. It feels like a dream come true. This is honestly the best day of my life. It's for everyone at home - it's not for me."

Also in the pool, Róisín Ní Ríain finished sixth in the final of the SM13 200m individual medley after she qualified with a fifth place in her heat.

County Down swimmer Barry McClements also made a final, finishing seventh in the S9 100m backstroke decider.

"I'm very happy, it was a good experience,” said McClements. “

The aim was to make a final here. I’ve done that already and I’ve two races to go. Another PB. My aim was to go 1:05 and not finish last so yeah, I’m happy. The aim has always been Paris so it’s a good stepping-stone."

Unfortunately, there was no joy for Irish archer Kerrie Leonard's whose Paralympic Games came to an end after she lost out in the last 16 of her event to Stepanida Artakhinova of the Russian Paralympic Committee.

Similarly, Larne woman Claire Taggart is out of the individual boccia competition after losing to Maciel Santos of Brazil in her final group game and in shooting, Phil Eaglesham, taking part in his second Paralympics, was 14th of 29 participants in the 10m Air Rifle Standing SH2.

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