Stallard is Hungary for European action

A KILKENNY swimmer will attempt to make some waves in Europe next week.

A KILKENNY swimmer will attempt to make some waves in Europe next week.

Shani Stallard has been selected in a seven-strong Irish squad to compete at the European Senior Swimming championships in Debrecen, Hungary.

“It’ll be my first long course senior meet,” she said. “I had my first senior meet in September but that was over a short course (25m pool). It’s going to be a really good event with lots of high standard athletes. I’m really looking forward to it.”

The 18-year-old city native is currently based in Limerick, where she combines studying for her Leaving Certificate with training in the University’s 50m pool.

“I moved to Limerick in September 2010 because the facilities are fantastic - there is a great set-up in the High Performance Centre,” she said. “We have a great coach and there is a group of six internationals based here with access to a 50m pool, which is the big draw.”

It was a big sacrifice, but one that Stallard felt had to be made.

“A lot of thinking went in before I made the move,” she said. “I wrote up a list of pros and cons, but at the end said that if I wanted to go for it now was the time to do it.

“I’m in the routine now,” she added. “It was tough for the first two or three months after the move. Now I’m in the swing of things and get on really well with all other swimmers here. We’re like a little family - one where everyone goes training at 5am!”

While some swimmers are targeting Olympic berths from the championships, Stallard is going out with the simple goal of improving her times.

“Some of the swimmers are still trying to qualify for London while others have medal hopes,” she said. “Making the semi-finals and finals would be the goal for most. I’ve been training very hard, so if I could swim a new personal best I’d be pretty happy with that.”

Stallard won the national women’s 200m breaststroke final earlier this year, setting a new Irish record in the process. While in Hungary she will compete in at least two events, the 100m breaststroke and 200m breaststroke, with the possibility of swimming in the 200IM inbetween.

“We arrive in Hungary on Friday, while the competition starts on Monday,” she said. “Training won’t be as intense between now and then; we’ll just focus on the races and build up our energy.”