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Conor opens door to shot at making Rio

By David Kelly

Conor Ferguson is in for a very busy summer after qualifying for the European senior championships.

Having already booked his place at the European junior championships, the 16-year-old BRA student will also enjoy the senior stage after an Irish junior record-breaking performance at the weekend in Sheffield.

Conor, a Commonwealth Youth Games gold medallist last year, clocked a 100m backstroke time of 55.49 to break his own Irish junior best and qualify for the European seniors but even more importantly he has closed the gap on the time needed to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

Swim Ireland have designated the Dave McCullagh Memorial meet at Bangor Aurora next month along with the Irish long course championships later in the year as qualification meets for Rio and the Carrick lad will now target those.

Only a few months ago Rio qualification would have been seen as a long shot but after his first two long course meets of the season, Conor has opened the door to hitting the FINA A time for the Games.

Apart from the weekend's feat, he also picked up a couple of medals at an international meet in Luxembourg.

Dad Peter isn't getting carried away, though, especially as this is his GCSE year.

"Conor's done well over the past couple of weeks and it's great that he was able to get the qualification time for the European seniors, although the main focus will be looking to get a medal at the European juniors," said Peter.

"But his overall main focus has to be on his GCSE exams, they're the most important thing."

Also in Sheffield, Ellie McKibben and Paddy Johnston were the top girl and boy in the 12 years and 14-15 years categories.

Ellie won gold in the 200 IM, 100 fly, 400 IM, 800 free, 50 fly, 200 fly and silver in the 400 free.

Paddy Johnston won 200m, 100m and 50m fly gold as well as 200m IM silver and 200m back bronze.

Other Sheffield results: Julia Knox bronze in 100m fly, 200m IM, 200m fly; Amelia Kane bronze 400m IM; Alex McCrea bronze 50m free; Leah Bethel bronze 400m free; Rebecca Reid gold 400m IM, 200m IM, 200m back, 100m free, silver 50m fly; Daniel Wiffen gold 400m free, silver 200m free 200m free, bronze 1500m free.

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