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Final countdown to Rio begins for Castlebar swimmer

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KITTED OUT Nicholas Quinn (right) pictured with fellow swimmer Shanr Ryan (left) and diver Oliver Dingley in Dublin before his departure for Rio. Pic: Sportsfile

Daniel Carey

A FRIDAY morning in St Catherine’s Community Sports Centre on Marrowbone Lane in Dublin 8, a 15-minute walk from Heuston Station. The wall outside the upstairs room, ‘The Crib’, is dotted with cartoons. Homer Simpson is choking Bart. Kenny, watched by his South Park colleague Cartman and Stewie from Family Guy, is lying dead, yet again. Tweety Bird is overseeing it all.
It’s a decidedly more serene atmosphere inside, where members of the media have been invited to meet with three of the athletes representing Swim Ireland at the Olympic Games, which begins with the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro next Friday.
Nicholas Quinn returns to Rio today (Tuesday), having spent the last week at a ‘holding camp’ in the Brazilian city of Uberlandia. The swimmer – who’s believed to be Castlebar’s first Olympian – has his warm-up event, the 100 metres breaststroke, next Saturday, with his main event, the 200 metres, following next Tuesday, August 9. “It’s definitely becoming real now,” the 23-year-old told The Mayo News.
Quinn, a psychology student at the University of Edinburgh, made a flying visit to Castlebar last month, and collected his Team Ireland kit in Dublin the following day. His bag ‘ended up sitting in Edinburgh Airport for a day or two’ due to staffing issues at the transport hub, but it ‘eventually came out and it was all good’. Nothing was missing, he confirms with a smile.
The event in Dublin, which saw Quinn share a stage with fellow swimmer Shane Quinn and diver Oliver Dingley before doing one-on-one interviews, offered a rare chance for the Scotland-based athlete to compare notes with some of that select group who are also preparing for their first Olympics.
“That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to – being part of Team Ireland, as opposed to just [in] a swimming competition,” he told The Mayo News. “It’ll be nice to ... be in the same boat as everyone else. Everyone is trying to peak at the same time.”
The aim is, as he puts it, to ‘peak perform’ and put himself in a position to make the semi-final of the 200 metres breaststroke. He swam a personal best in qualifying for Rio at an event in Eindhoven, and knows he needs to better that to be in with a chance of a second swim.
Among those travelling to Brazil is Chris Jones, his coach from Edinburgh. Quinn is pleased that a man who ‘knows me inside and out’ – who recognises when he needs to be distracted, when he wants to be left to do his own thing – will be ‘in country’ alongside Peter Banks, High Performance Director of Swim Ireland.
“Peter is great, and I’ve worked with Peter a lot, but it’s not the same as working with someone day in, day out,” says Quinn. “It’s a a real bonus, having [Chris] going out there. It’s just one less thing that I have to think about.”
Speaking two days before the International Olympic Committee decided not to ban the entire Russian Olympic team over allegations of state-sponsored doping, Quinn called on the IOC to ‘take a firm stance’ on the issue and ‘send out a signal to the rest of the world that … we won’t accept this’.
“An example needs to be made,” he told Dave McIntyre on Newstalk. “We’re coming to a crisis point where something has to be done … We can’t hide away from it anymore. It’s come to the fore and action has to be taken now.”
Swimming’s world governing body FINA last week banned three Russian swimmers from competing at the Rio Games, while a further four were withdrawn from the team by the Russian Olympic Committee. The three were named in Richard McLaren’s damning report into state-sponsored doping in Russia, while the four have all previously served doping bans.

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