'Still trying to get my head around it' - McSharry after incredible eighth-place finish in Olympic final

The 20-year-old clocked a time of 1:06.94 in an exceptional field.

Mona McSharry (file pic).
Mona McSharry (file pic).
Image: ©INPHO

Updated Jul 27th 2021, 9:32 AM

IRELAND SWIMMING SENSATION Mona McSharry finished eighth in her 100m Breastsroke final at her first Olympic Games.

Just the second Irish swimmer to make an Olympic final, and first in 25 years, the 20-year-old Sligo native clocked a time of 1:06.94 in an exceptional field.

Competing from lane eight at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, McSharry got off to a strong start and held her own. Turning in 31.68 seconds in eighth place, it was there she stayed as the world-class line-up featuring Olympic champion, USA’s Lilly King, current European champion Sophie Hansson of Sweden and the fastest qualifier, Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa, took over.

Though it was USA teenager Lydia Jacoby, 17, who stunned the favourites to win in 1:04.95, with Schoenmaker second in 1:05.22 and King relinquishing her title to finish third in 1:05.54.

“I can’t but be happy with eighth place at the Olympics,” McSharry, who swam three consistent races at Tokyo 2020 in under 1:07 so far, told RTÉ afterwards. “That sounds amazing.

“I remember watching the heats before me going on Sunday night and seeing 1:06s and being like, ‘Wow, this is tough competition. It’s going to be tight to make a semi let alone a final.’ So to be able to make it back through the rounds and compete and be fast enough and be with the top class women in the world is unbelievable. 

“It’s something I’m still trying to get my head around but really quite amazing.”

On the overall experience of reaching an Olympic final, McSharry adds:

“It’s kind of weird because when I’m in my competition zone, it’s kind of like any other race. I have a set routine, I’m a creature of habit and I do the same routine, whether I’m racing at a small meet back home in Ireland or the world stage or the Olympics.

“So, when you get into the mindset of racing, it really just feels like any other competition. It’s only afterwards when I talk to my family and friends and hear all the supportive messages back home that I realise that I’m actually at the Olympics and I’m racing in an Olympic final.

“It is unbelievable but at the end of the day, it is just another 50m pool and it’s just another race. You’re just competing against some fast swimmers and that’s why we do it.”

She added that she was more nervous about reaching the semi-finals and was excited to “have fun” swimming in the final.

“I love that the whole nation is behind me,” she added. “Thank you to everyone who got up to watch it, and for supporting me. Making a final was my target for 2024, so we’re going to have to sit down and make some new targets! It’s amazing.”

mona-mcsharry-with-coach-benjamin-higson Cool, calm, collected with coach Benjamin Higson before the race. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

McSharry’s stunning performance yesterday and time of 1:06.59 – just 0.3 seconds off her Irish senior record – saw her finish fourth in her semi-final, and qualified in eighth place.

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The Grange native finished her heat in third, clocking a time of 1:06.39

A scholarship student at the University of Tennessee, McSharry won a gold medal at the World Junior Championships in 2017 and has enjoyed an outstanding rise over the past few years.

No matter the result this morning, getting there was an astonishing achievement by McSharry, and a seismic boost for Irish swimming.

She now faces into the heats of the 200m breaststroke on Wednesday.

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Emma Duffy

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