Teen Sycerika McMahon will gain from Games experience
At just 17 years of age Portaferry schoolgirl Sycerika McMahon made her Olympic bow in the Aquatics Centre.
It did not go according to plan. There will be better days in an Olympic pool for the teenager than this.
Following a stunning year of success which included winning a silver medal in the 50m breaststroke at the European Championships in May, there were high hopes for McMahon ahead of her debut in the Games.
Obviously she was never going to be in contention for a medal with much more experienced and faster swimmers up against her.
Even a semi-final place was asking a lot, but there was anticipation, not least from Sycerika herself, that she would improve on her personal best in the 100m breaststroke and set down a marker for future major championships.
Instead the youngster, representing Ireland, was too upset to speak to the media after clocking up a disappointing time of 1.08.80 when finishing eighth in what was a blistering heat, won by 15-year-old Lithuanian sensation Ruta Meilutyte in 1:05.56.
McMahon's time, which left her 26th overall, was 0.53 slower than she swam in qualifying for London 2012 and 0.95 short of the 16th qualifier for the semis, so it was hardly surprising that this driven young lady was hugely disappointed.
Swim Ireland boss Peter Banks said: “Sycerika is a very competitive individual and is very, very disappointed.
“She came here and set herself some high expectations. We want them to set those high expectations but sometimes you have to learn how to deal with that and she is still very young and still learning.
“That's why we want her here though so she can see this is not the same as any other competition.
“There are 17,000 people here and you have to learn how to deal with that.”
Sycerika, who should use London as great experience for Rio in four years time, is due back in the pool today in the 200m individual medley heats.
McMahon's Northern Ireland compatriot Melanie Nocher also missed out on a place in the semi-finals in the 100m backstroke.
The 24-year-old finished third in her heat in 1.02.44 which left her 33rd overall.
Rather than get down about it though, Nocher saw her swim as useful preparation for Thursday's 200m backstroke heats, which is her favoured event.
“I know I'm capable of going faster than that but this is just a warm-up for the 200m, so it's a great chance to get a race in,” said Melanie.
“It's always nice to get one out of the way and get rid of any nerves. I felt good. It was a bit weird, I wasn't a bit nervous — I was just excited.”
Nocher admitted that after her race she felt a little “light headed” due to a lack of food, suggesting she might alter preparation for the 200.
“I didn't have enough food in the tank for what I needed to do.
“I may need to re-think what I'm doing for the 200 because coming out and feeling like you're going to faint is not a good thing,” said the Belfast woman.
Unlike McMahon, the Olympics isn't new to Nocher, who competed in Beijing four years ago.
So far she is enjoying the London experience much more.
“I know a lot more people here, I have my coach and my training partners and friends here and that helps a lot.
“It makes it a bit easier in the call-room, to have a bit of a laugh and stuff. In Beijing I didn't really know anybody and I found that a bit difficult as I'm a very social person. In Beijing I was crying and stuff.”
Melanie added that while personal bests are the goal, they aren't always possible.
She said: “A lot of people say swim the race, not the occasion. We may get criticised for not swimming our best times in our heats but at the same time there's only 20 per cent of people overall who do PBs and that's very rarely in the morning so you have to take that into consideration as well.
“It's hard enough to do PBs and if you don't get a chance of a second swim that chance goes down ever more.”
McMahon was not the only disappointed Irish swimmer with Wexford's Grainne Murphy, who has been bothered by a virus, 10 seconds outside her personal best as she finished 31st in the 400m freestyle heats. Murphy races in the 800m on Thursday.