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Swashbuckling Conor makes impact with British bronze

By David Kelly

Conor Ferguson produced an outstanding performance at the British championships in Sheffield to land a bronze medal in the 200m backstroke. The 17-year-old, who moved on a scholarship to the prestigious Ellesmere College near Cheshire in September, was competing in his first ever British championships and immediately set a new Irish senior record in the morning heats.

Conor's time of 1:54.93 was two seconds quicker than any previous 17-year-old Irish or British swimmer and there was more to come in the final.

The teenager returned to the pool in the evening to clock a new Irish best of 1:54.30, taking bronze behind gold medallist Craig McNally, 23, who clocked 1:52.26.

Even more encouraging for Carrick lad Conor is that he still has his main event, the 100m backstroke, to come tomorrow, while he is back in action today in the 50m back.

"I'm really excited about what I've done today. I didn't expect to go that fast in the morning and I actually thought I could have gone a bit quicker in the evening," said Conor, who is delighted with how he is working with new coach Alan Bircher at Ellesmere College where he trains alongside many of Britain's best juniors.

"Alan has been great for me. He's like an uncle, I can talk to him about anything and he understands my ambition.

"He understands why I wasn't happy with a silver medal at the European junior championships and it's just great training alongside guys who have the same goals as me.

"I thought it would take a year before I would see the benefits of the training because I am in a long term process with Alan at Ellesmere so to see my time come down so quickly is very encouraging.

"It's a different ball game over here and I love the fact that I'm now staring down senior swimmers on the block because I love to compete. Getting a bronze medal and two Irish records in my first race at my first British championships is phenomenal."

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