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Dublin: 8°C Saturday 16 January 2021

Moving on from unlucky 2013 - the goal for Sycerika McMahon

Ireland’s teenage sensation is ready to put her disappointment behind her as she packs her bags for Texas.

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

EVERYTHING IS BIGGER in Texas, they say. And that is where Sycerika McMahon is hoping that her already flourishing reputation can swell while her times in the pool begin to retract.

McMahon bade farewell to her swimming base in Belfast last week. And following a week at the swimming World Championships in Barcelona, she will have 10 jam-packed days at home to prepare for her move to the renowned athletic programme of  Texas A&M University.

Between the communication breakdown that led to her missing out on her best event and her impending flight from the nest, her approach to this meet in Barcelona less than ideal. Not that it’s taken any gloss off her enthusiasm for the semester ahead, mind.

“Texas is always in the back of my mind,” the 18-year-old says as she’s uncomfortably wedged between journalists at the NAC.

“I can’t wait to go, really. There are girls on that squad like Breeja Larson and Camille Adams who have went to the Olympic Games and been in finals. So these girls are really, really good so to be part of that team of around 30 girls is fantastic for me. It’s such an amazing opportunity to get the scholarship to the States and go to Texas A&M and train with the best in the world – I couldn’t be more privileged.”

Before she embarks on that odyssey, there are the Worlds. McMahon will take the blocks in the 100 and 200 metre freestyle races, but first she’ll go into tomorrow’s 200 metre individual medley with a point to prove in her breaststroke split having suddenly been forced to tear up her preparation plan.

“I changed my training because I was training mainly for the breaststroke — they are my best events. But I sat down with my coach Bobby [Madine], talked about it for a long time and we’re just trying to be positive about the whole thing — get in there with a good frame of mind and who knows what can happen.”

Make no mistake, missing out in her preferred disciplines hurts. McMahon uses the word ‘devastated’ each time she is asked about the infuriatingly frustrating situation.

Now, she will have to take a place in the stands to cheer on Fiona Doyle after the Dubliner not only achieved the A standard to get in this race in her stead, but also knocked down McMahon’s national 100 metre record in the process. There is a rivalry growing, but a friendly one.

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McMahon (right) with Barry Murphy and Fiona Doyle this week. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

“[Doyle] has the right to be there. Unfortunately I’d like to be there with her because two years ago I swam the 50 breaststroke (in the World Championships) and came 13th. So I got a semi-final when I was 16 and that was pretty a good achievement, especially back then.

“So who knows what would have happened this time; hopefully I would have got a second swim and maybe even a third swim into a final. There’s no point on dwelling on what could have happened.”

Because of that 2011 outing at the World Championships, the Olympics have brought little change to her life. US collegiate recruiters will have already been alive to her potential and versatility even before she bounced back from a disappointing Olympic debut in the breaststroke to impress in the IM. Bigger changes come with the final days of school, exams, college offers – all while rising before dawn to hit the pool.

Tough year

“The year after the Olympics has been a tough year, I’m not going to lie. The one really good thing to come out of it was probably the European Short Course [Championships] when, in the 50 metre breaststroke, I won a European senior bronze medal at that event.

“That was really good and I really enjoyed that event but after that there has been no real competition for me. I swam at Nationals but I was just after an altitude camp so you’re kind of training through the meets. I guess the focus all year was to go to the world championships but I’m looking forward to it all the same”

It’s been rough going, but Barcelona is now her chance to put her own positive spin on things before starting afresh in Brazos County, TX. Opportunities don’t come much bigger than this.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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