Sycerika McMahon has made history by becoming the youngest ever Irish swimmer to win a major championship medal.
McMahon, who only turned 17 last month, produced another incredible performance to take silver in the 50m breaststroke at the European long course championships in Debrecen, Hungary — just five days after qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics in the 100m breaststroke.
The Portaferry teenager, only the sixth Irish swimmer to medal at a major championships, also set a new Irish senior record of 31.27, agonisingly 0.02 away from gold medal winner Petra Chocova of the Czech Republic and just ahead of Germany’s Caroline Ruhhau who touched in 31.35.
McMahon’s rise from top Ulster junior to world class performer has been truly remarkable and it is little wonder that she is allowing herself to ponder very big dreams indeed.
“To look up at the board and see that I had won a medal was just amazing, an incredible feeling for me,” said McMahon, who is coached by Leander boss Bobby Madine.
“ I’m just so proud to be representing my country at the highest level and to win a medal is a huge bonus.
“Having done well in the semi-finals I was confident going into the final, but you’re never sure if some of the swimmers are holding something back because you’re swimming against the very best in Europe.
“I just gave it my best and it all paid off. To win a medal at my first European senior championships is hard to take in. I have a lot of people to thank, my coaches Bobby and Katherine, my mum and everybody who has supported me.
“I was just 0.02 away from gold which would have been just perfect but I’m not complaining — a silver medal is just brilliant.”
Now McMahon along with Melanie Nocher, Barry Murphy and Grainne Murphy can look ahead to London in the summer and the Leander teenager is eagerly looking forward to standing alongside the best in the world.
“I’m so excited now about London, I can’t wait to enjoy the experience of that and I guess I’m even more excited after winning this medal,” said McMahon.
“It’s everyone’s dream to win a medal at the Olympics, it’s my dream too and hopefully one day that can happen. I hope this is just the start of me winning major medals, I want more for sure.
“Now I want to get home and get on with my training and start working towards London.”
Overall the Irish have enjoyed an unprecedented week at the European championships and Swim Ireland Performance Director Peter Banks believes the sport can learn and thrive on the back of seven days in which every member of the team experienced a semi-final or a final as well as Olympic qualification for McMahon and Nocher.
Banks said: “This has been great for the sport. I hope it will act as inspiration for coaches and swimmers, that they realise what can be achieved and that they can strive to be up there with the best.
“Sycerika gave a fantastic performance in the 50m breaststroke final and she along with her coach Bobby Madine deserves a lot of credit. To move from being a junior European medallist to a senior European medallist immediately is quite an achievement.”