Ards head coach Davy Johnston believes that Barry McClements is only at the start of an amazing journey in the pool as he counts down to competing in the Paralympics in Tokyo.
McClements and the Irish swimming team have arrived at their holding camp in Japan and at just 19 he will be competing in his first Games, in the S9 class 100m butterfly, 100m backstroke, 400m freestyle and 200m individual medley.
Coach Johnston, who currently presides over arguably the best group of elite swimmers on the island, says McClements will soak up the experience of Tokyo and return an improved athlete with huge potential.
“If Barry stays focused and determined then he has 10 years ahead of him and there is no doubt in my mind that he can bring home a medal one day. It may be asking too much to do it this time but he can go and learn what needs to be done to win a medal in the future,” said Johnston.
“I was in no doubt that he would qualify for the Games and I can honestly say that he is one of the most talented butterfly swimmers I’ve ever coached and I’ve coached hundreds of swimmers. He just has it in him, he has that talent but of course everyone has to learn just what is required to get to the very top.
“He’s fortunate that he is in a great group of swimmers at the club so he is able to learn off them and he trains alongside Bethany Firth, one of the greatest Paralympic swimmers ever so he has a lot going for him.
“When you think that Bethany was the top GB Paralympic athlete in the Rio Games, never mind swimmer, it shows you the example she is able to set for others.
“This is going to be a great learning experience for Barry and everyone at the club is very proud that he is stepping on to the biggest stage of all – and he’s had great support from his parents and his grandmother in particular.”
McClements, a European finalist as well as a World Series silver medal winner and Commonwealth Games representative, is another athlete to come off the Ards conveyor belt of success and coach Johnston points to the relentless pursuit of success within the club being built upon a sense of community.
Recently, the club added Commonwealth Games athlete Curtis Coulter to their coaching set-up while former head coach Nelson Lindsay remains a guiding light on the pool bank as Johnston leads the club forward.
“There’s a certain ethos within the club that we will not allow to change. We don’t just focus on certain individuals, our goal has always been to bring through groups of swimmers that become peer groups so there is a real bond there and Barry has enjoyed that as much as anyone,” added Johnston.
“Behind the scenes we have a fantastic committee who make it possible for us to operate so well and allow us to keep moving forward.
“Barry is the latest swimmer over a number of years to be on the international stage and he needs to dream big because as far as I’m concerned this is just the start for him.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can achieve over the coming years because there’s no doubt in my mind that he has the talent.”