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Barry McClements so proud to seal Northern Ireland’s first ever Commonwealth Games swimming medal with bronze in men’s 100m backstroke S9


Northern Ireland’s Barry McClements celebrates bronze in the men’s 100m backstroke S9 Final

Northern Ireland’s Barry McClements celebrates bronze in the men’s 100m backstroke S9 Final

Northern Ireland’s Barry McClements celebrates bronze in the men’s 100m backstroke S9 Final

Barry McClements was as proud as punch after winning Northern Ireland’s first ever swimming medal at the Commonwealth Games, claiming a bronze in the men’s 100m backstroke S9.

The 20-year-old Para-swimmer is a history maker now. That’s how you make a splash on the first day of competition in Birmingham.

As a 10-month-old baby, Northern Ireland’s latest sporting hero had his right leg amputated above the knee due to a rare birth defect called fibular hemimelia, but it didn’t stop him starting swimming at the age of 10 and soon he found he couldn’t get enough of it.

That passion for the pool used to see him wake up at 4am and go to Ards Swimming Club with his dad, also called Barry, to train for a couple of hours before going to school in Comber. He’d be in the water again after his lessons. That dedication has led to this. Magnificent.

The achievement of McClements wasn’t just joyful for him and the swimming squad, it was glorious for all of Team NI and a wonderful way to start the global multi-sports event. By making waves and making history, he can inspire everyone else representing Northern Ireland.

McClements produced a fantastic swim and personal best of 1:05.09 to finish behind Australian gold medallist Timothy Hodge and New Zealand’s Jesse Reynolds at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre.

Earlier, fellow Northern Ireland swimmer Daniel Wiffen was just 0.13 seconds away from bronze as he finished fourth in the men’s 400m freestyle Final.

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So close but the Armagh man can take heart that his strongest event, the 1,500m freestyle, is still to come.

For McClements, he can take home a piece of treasure to savour. He made an impressive start and was third at the halfway mark, looking good for bronze. In the closing stages, Aussie Harrison Vig was closing in but McClements had the strength, determination and desire to hold on for third.

On creating history, he said: “It’s an unbelievable feeling, especially when you don’t get that many chances to represent Northern Ireland. To get our first medal in swimming is amazing.

“I know Daniel was going for it as well and we were having a joke about who was going to get it first. I don’t know when it will sink in or if it ever will but hopefully that’s the start of many more to come.”

McClements was overjoyed that he had family members in the Aquatics Centre to roar him on.

Coronavirus restrictions have been tough for them with McClements, who made his Paralympic debut for Ireland at the Games in Tokyo last year, revealing: “This is the first time my dad has seen me in about four years because of Covid. He has been my No.1 fan so I’m happy to get my first major international medal in front of him and my family. I had it (Covid) in December and it did knock me back but I have my medal now.”

In his race, Armagh man Wiffen clocked 3 minutes 46.62, shaving nearly a second off the Irish record he set in qualifying earlier in the day as he finished behind world champion Elijah Winnington and fellow Australians Sam Short and Mack Horton.

“This is not my best event but to get another PB, I’m very happy and this helps my confidence for the 1,500m. I want to get on the podium for Northern Ireland,” said Wiffen.

Team NI’s Victoria Catterson was eighth in the Final of the women’s 200m freestyle last night having broken Michelle de Bruin’s 25-year-old Irish women’s record for the event in qualifying with a time of 1:59.86.

Grace Davison didn’t make the Final in that event and it was the same story for Kaitlin McCaw in the women’s 100m butterfly.

Multiple Paralympic gold medallist Bethany Firth was sixth in her heat of the women’s 200m freestyle, warming up for the Para-swimming race which she is expected to win.

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