‘It’s a really nice bonus’ - Hill qualifies for Olympic Games in 50m freestyle

Danielle Hill
Danielle Hill will compete in two events at the Paris Olympic Games this summer [Inpho]

Larne swimmer Danielle Hill described it as ‘a bonus’ after qualifying to compete in the women's 50m freestyle at this summer Olympic Games.

Hill set a new Irish record in winning the final of the event in 24.68 seconds at the Irish National Swimming Championships and Olympic Trials at the National Aquatics Centre in Dublin on Saturday.

The 25-year-old needed 24.70 to ensure her participation in the 50m freestyle in Paris.

Hill secured initial qualification for her second Olympics in the women's 100m backstroke on Wednesday.

Needing 59.99 to qualify for France she produced a superb swim to obliterate that time with a stunning 59.11 taking over a second of her previous best and Irish record of 1:00.16.

In doing so, she made history by becoming the first Irish woman to break the one-minute barrier in the 100m backstroke.

“It's a really nice bonus and, you know, tonight I would have been happy with the B time because that would have allowed me to swim it in Paris but to just dip under that A time was really special,” said Hill who became the first Irish woman to break the 25 seconds barrier.

“I woke up this morning and unbeknownst to everyone else, I kind of kept it under wraps, but the warm-up felt really good and then this morning, you know, I thought why not just give it a chance and see what happens and to go that sub 25 in the morning I think is more special because I’m not usually a morning swimmer, so it was really, really good.”

Hill can now look ahead to swimming two individual events in Paris as well as the medley relay.

“I'm super excited and, you know, those FINA A times aren't easy and times that now put me top 10 in the world, top five in Europe and that gives me goosebumps.

”So listen, it's an awesome place to be and it has been a long journey, but I'd do it all again if this was the end result.

”So head down for another nine weeks and see where we can go.”

Hill’s swim was the highlight of the fourth night of competition in Dublin.

Shane Ryan came close to matching her achievement, narrowly missing the Olympic standard in the 100m freestyle.

Ryan, who is looking to make his third Games, lowered his own Irish Senior twice, first in the heats and then again in the semi-finals to 48.49 but needs 48.34 in the final on Sunday evening.

Galway backstroker John Shortt won the 200m backstroke in 1:58.38 but was shy of the Olympic time of 1:57.50 while Ellen Walshe, already Paris bound in the 200m individual medley, failed to make the time needed in the 100m butterfly.

Victoria Catterson edged out Grace Davison in the semi-finals of the 200m freestyle and will race again in the final on Sunday.

Nathan Wiffen was the fastest qualifier for Sunday’s 1500m freestyle final where he will attempt to join his brother Daniel in Paris.

Tom Fannon, Daniel Wiffen, Ellen Walshe, Mona McSharry and Hill are the Irish swimmers to have qualified for the Games to date.