Irish Swimming Looking Abroad For High-Level Athletes

Ireland’s new National Performance Director Jon Rudd says the nation will focus on keeping talented domestic athletes training in Ireland while finding athletes abroad with Irish eligibility as the nation builds towards the next Olympics.

“Although we have 6 million people living in Ireland, there are 80-100 million outside of Ireland that have eligibility to race for us,” Rudd told SwimSwam this week, adding that many athletes outside of Ireland may not even know they could have Irish eligibility.

That comes after Ireland’s best aquatic finishers at the Rio Olympics came from outside of the nation. American-born swimmer Shane Ryan elected to use his Irish citizenship to compete for Ireland in 2016 after trying out for the U.S. Olympic team in 2012. Ryan, whose mother and father are both of Irish descent, made semifinals of the 100 backstroke in Rio. Meanwhile diver Oliver Dingley made the 3-meter springboard final after switching his citizenship from Great Britain to Ireland. Dingley became the first Irish diver to qualify for the Olympics in 68 years and became the first Irish diver ever to make an Olympic final.

That’s not to say Rudd wants to focus entirely outside of Ireland’s borders.

“I’m conscious of the fact that my priority is right here in Ireland,” he said, “but that should not mean that we’re closed to possibilities: there are lots of folk out there who may not know they are eligible for Ireland. And if they have Irish heritage and respond to the call and culture, we should welcome them.

“A medal for Ireland will be great; a medal for Ireland that comes out of Ireland will feel even better.”

Rudd said his vision of Irish Swimming is to have infrastructure that entices great domestic athletes to continue training in Ireland, while also bringing in high-level athletes from outside the country with eligibility.

“I want a system where swimmers can choose to leave but don’t feel like they have to,” Rudd said. “If they want a lifestyle and cultural change by going to the US or wherever, then go for it. That’s fine – but I don’t think that’s for national medalists looking to make senior international teams in the future. We want to create a situation at the National performance centres in Dublin and Limerick where athletes get to 18 years of age and there’s a strong viable option for them to stay on shore and not to feel like by staying home they are compromising whatever potential they have.”

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14 Comments on "Irish Swimming Looking Abroad For High-Level Athletes"

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“A medal for Ireland will be great; a medal for Ireland that comes out of Ireland will feel even better.” that’s honestly just ridiculous as I don’t see how it could be even better..

As someone who has watched Peter Banks “work” over the last few years on the pool deck it is a breath of fresh air to see someone a. Have an actual background in swimming excellence rather than a 1 hit wonder Olympic medalist from 20+ years ago and b. Not be afraid to put in some hard work and look around the world (not in this article but in the full interview with SwimVortex Mr Rud cites the US GB and AUS programs of excellence and general club management for an idea into managing the diversity within Ireland) for ideas and the best possible way to implement ideas and training. Ultimently Mr Rudd’s appointment will be the best thing Swim… Read more »
Kevin McGinley
OPEN LETTER TO JON RUDD Dear Mr Jon Rudd I was thrilled to hear a coach of your calibre was given the task of taking Irish Swimming to a new level. We have thousands of swimmers who work really hard and give up their lives daily in the dream of, one day, representing THEIR country at the Olympic Games or World Championships. I was then saddened and disillusioned to see your recent comments in worldwide media basically advertising for swimmers who aren’t good enough for THEIR own countries to check for Irish Ancestry in the hope they could win you a medal or two at these competitions. How am I supposed to tell my son that his place at the… Read more »
Your letter is fairly addressing likely the fear of many there’s no question about that but ultimately swimming is very much a minority sport in Ireland with most choosing GAA, rugby etc when perhaps many athletes would potentially be better suited to swimming (e.g. Many fast twitch athletes who would choose the “glamour” sports over the long slog staring at the black line for hours everyday). Admittedly I know very little about boxing but I’m sure there is a statistic to show the number of young people who took up the sport saw a huge boost following Katie and the others success in London. Although not ideal to have to ‘farm out’ for talent perhaps success of individuals with a… Read more »

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson just can’t stay away from the pool. A competitive career of almost two decades wasn’t enough for this Minnesotan, who continues to get his daily chlorine fix. A lifelong lover of writing, Jared now combines the two passions as Senior Reporter for SwimSwam.com, covering swimming at every level. He’s an …

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