In our new series, ‘Showcase your Sport’, in association with the Federation of Irish Sport, we will be giving you a thorough insight into some of the most fascinating sports we have in Ireland.
This week, our focus is on Swim Ireland and answering our questions is European bronze medallist Mona McSharry.
When did you first take a serious interest in swimming?
At 12 I competed in the Ulster Age groups and won my first 100m breaststroke. I was sixth or seventh into the final and raced my heart out to just touch my competitors out and win the gold. In that moment, I felt the buzz of not only winning gold but only winning by a hair. I think it was then that I realised how much I enjoyed racing and that I wanted to keep feeling that buzz.
What is it like to represent Ireland at European and World level?
There is no better feeling, it’s why I push myself so hard day in and day out so that I can get as many opportunities as possible to race for my country. The feeling of adrenaline and fight building up in my body, heart pumping as I stand in front of the blocks ready to race for Ireland, it’s what I live for.
What is your preferred event?
My preferred event is just anything short. I love a good splash and dash like the 50 freestyle or 100 breaststroke. I also prefer short course swimming to long course swimming because I think I’m more used to that with my home pool being 25m.
What was it like to win your first senior medal at the European Championships last year?
To date, it’s my top moment in swimming. The fact that I won it from the outside just made the win so much sweeter as I really wasn’t expecting it. I had quite a rough year before the European Seniors and took the medal as a sign that everything was looking up and all my hard work and dedication was paying off.
What does a normal training week look like for you?
My normal training week was seven or eight swim sessions a week, two of which were long course and the rest short course in my home pool of Ballyshannon. Also, two gym sessions and one circuit session. At the moment I am trying to build my way up again and am currently doing four swim sessions a week with four circuit sessions and two gym sessions.
What is your favourite memory from the sport?
Apart from my medal at the European Seniors last December, I would have to say the whole week of racing in Indianapolis for the World Juniors in 2017. I raced in multiple events including relays and made it to finals in most of them. I also won a gold and bronze medal. I felt on fire during this meet and really enjoyed every minute of it. As well as that my whole family, coach and best friend were there to watch me win the gold and race really well which meant a lot to me as they don’t often get to travel to the International competitions.
How did you cope during lockdown away from the pool?
I really enjoyed lockdown. Honestly, I welcomed the break from the water as I knew there was nothing I could do to change it. I was upset to hear all competitions were cancelled including the Olympics but it gives me a great opportunity to reset mentally and challenge my body to keep fit in other ways.
Who do you look to for motivation/inspiration?
I take inspiration from many different people in my life and other amazing athletes doing wonders in their field. I got the opportunity to meet many Irish female athletes last December at the Sportswomen of the Year awards and hearing their stories and what they have done to reach their goals inspires me to want to do the same. I have always admired Katie Taylor and her drive to push herself to the limit for what she wants. I also love to break through pain barriers in training and push my body to be its best.
What is your ultimate goal in swimming?
It would definitely have to be the Olympics. That is a goal many young children in sport aspire to including me and as I grew older, I realised it was a goal I was more than capable of reaching with hard work and determination.