Magheralin's Daniel Wiffen strikes European swimming gold in Romania

Daniel Wiffen is a European champion
Daniel Wiffen is a European champion Daniel Wiffen is a European champion

DANIEL Wiffen has won Ireland’s first-ever European Short Course gold medal, while Ellen Walshe took bronze on the opening day of finals at the European Aquatics Championships (25m) in Romania.

Magheralin man Wiffen continued his onslaught of the history books with gold in the 400m freestyle at the Olympic Complex Otopeni.

The European record-holder in the 800m freestyle put on a dominant display to be crowned European champion for the first time.

The 22-year-old won the final by over two seconds, in 3:35.47, a new Irish record, knocking almost three seconds off his previous best of 3:38.40; his closest competitor, Danys Rapsys of Lithuania, won silver in 3:37.80.

Wiffen stayed with the pack for the first 200 metres of the race and then secured a lead which was never relinquished.

A delighted Wiffen commented ‘I want to start by saying well done to Ellen, she was class, she inspired me to go and get a gold then. That race was amazing to be part of, I got to the 200 and everyone was close together and I thought I’m going to go now or never, so I just went, and it worked out. It just felt amazing, I don’t know what to say, I’m stuck for words, we do so much work in training and then this is on the back of winning at U23s in Dublin and to win in the next European’s is great.’

Wiffen returns to the pool on Wednesday for the heats of the 1500m freestyle.

Walshe added her name to the list of now 10 Irish medallists at the European Short Course Championships after she won bronze in the 400m individual medley.

The Templeogue swimmer clocked 4:29.64, just six-tenths of a second off silver medallist Freya Colbert (4:29.04) of Great Britain.

Walshe is the Irish record-holder in the event in 4:26.52, a swim in which she won silver at the 2021 World Short Course Swimming Championships.

''It’s great, I can be a little hurt that I was faster than that previously but where I’m at in my training, heading into Paris, a European medal is a European medal, so I’m delighted.’

The 22-year-old went stroke for stroke with Colbert of Great Britain in the final 100m of the event, with Walshe saying: ''I’m pretty sure she has a stronger freestyle than me, I knew I was going to have to dig deep for it.''

Walshe is back in the pool on Wednesday for the 100m individual medley heats.

Danielle Hill had a fantastic swim in the semi-final of the 50m freestyle, setting a second Irish record of the day, and came agonisingly close to making the final, touching in 24.16.

Hill lowered her time from the morning’s heats of 24.33 finishing ninth, just three hundredths of a second outside the top eight required to make the final.

There were mixed emotions for Hill who spoke after the race

''It’s a hard pill to swallow, but one that I haven’t had to swallow before so... freestyle, 50m isn’t what I’ve been training at all, so to come here and get those two swims today is a massive positive and I know I’ll look forward to the rest of the week. Those two swims that I just watched before me (Ellen Walshe & Daniel Wiffen) gave me that little bit of motivation to go again tonight so I’m happy and of course disappointed, but someone has to come ninth.’

Shane Ryan is back in a European final for the first time since his bronze medal win at the 2019 European Short Course Championships.

Ryan was third in his semi-final and advances to Wednesday's 50m backstroke final in sixth place overall in 23.19.

Speaking after his race Ryan said: ''Definitely very happy with that, the main thing for this meet is to really try and take as much as we can from racing to move into February (World Championships/Olympic Trials) because that’s where the main event is, so we’re not rested for this meet. So, my goal here was to try to get through the rounds, get faster and make finals and I’ve made the final. I still need to execute a bit more but that’s why were here, to dial down on the little things before February.’

Ryan’s 50m backstroke final takes place on Wednesday at 4.05pm.

Also on Tuesday evening, Max McCusker clocked 51.46 to finish in 13th place overall in the 100m butterfly semi-finals. McCusker returns to the pool on Friday for the 50m butterfly heats.