“I’m in the best shape I’ve ever had” – The Irish Times
He thinks for a few seconds while emitting a sound.
“Ehhhhhh…I’m not exactly sure,” he said. “But it’s been more than 20 times.”
That’ll do. It’s hard to follow. Irish records have fallen in the past two years. Even Daniel Wiffen lost count and he was the one who broke and twisted everything at the end of the long run swim.
The 21-year-old also broke a magical swimming barrier this year, when he became the first Irish athlete to break the 15-minute mark for the 1,500m freestyle.
Wiffen is part of an Irish side that have been busy the past two seasons redrawing the record map. Almost half, eight out of 17, of the men’s individual 50m to 1,500m records currently on record were set during this period as Irish swimmers began to appear in Olympic and World Championship finals and to appear on the podium at European level. .
In the women’s individual list, the number is also eight records set in 2021 and 2022 out of 17, with Olympic finalist Mona McSharry holding four.
Wiffen’s Irish swimming story arrived at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Budapest in July
Wiffen has three of the current best marks at 1,500m, 800m and 400m. All have been fixed this year and it is not finished. He has plans to cut more pieces.
“Yeah, I like breaking records, especially when I broke the 15 minutes. That one was definitely the best,” he says.
“The 15 minute barrier is world class. If you’re below that, you’re in the top 70 for doing it. I think with my time, right now, I’m in the top 50 of all time. Just to get under the 15 minute barrier is huge. Then you can say that you are a long distance swimmer.
In swimming, the 15-minute bar has a history. Like the four-minute mile, first pioneered in 1954 by Roger Bannister, swimming 1,500m in less than 15 minutes is a surefire way to get noticed.
The first time it was broken was at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow last July, marking 42 years since Vladimir Salnikov hit the target.
Although the race has been around since Athens in 1896, the first official 1,500m race in a swimming pool took place in London in 1908, when a local, Henry Taylor, won the title after just 15 lengths of the first and only Olympic swimming pool 100 m long.
By the time Moscow arrived, American swimmers were dreaming of numbers. Then, as the story goes, the American team, under instructions from the Carter administration, boycotted the games after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
It gave the opportunistic Salnikov a relatively clear field and he took it by becoming the first to leave 15 minutes behind, swimming the distance in 14:58.27.
Wiffen’s Irish swimming story came to the FINA World Swimming Championships in Budapest in July. Already holding the previous Irish record of 15:02.78, he slashed it again by almost five seconds. Swimming faster than Salnikov, the Loughborough University student touched down at 14:57.66, to finish fourth in his heat.
He won Ireland’s record for the first time in December 2020, beating Andrew Meegan’s mark of 15:19.98 with a swim of 15:19.04. It was just fractions this time. But it has since consumed the event, taking over 20 seconds over an 18-month period. It now sits in the Irish records list at 14:51.79.
“Yes definitely [15 minutes] was in my head,” he says. “I thought it would take me another year to get the long course record. But I got it in the same season. It’s a very good barrier to break down.
“I know from training how I feel. I know almost every time I go to a race that I’m in the best shape of my life. That alone gives me confidence. I know I’m going to have a PB if I am in the best physical shape.
“Also, I know what the pace is like picking it up in training. You just get like a clock ticking in your head, you automatically make time. You feel it.
“My old coach (Martin McGann), who coached me since I was very young, he always told me he wanted to be there when I broke 50 minutes. It’s not just important for me “It’s important for Irish swimming to show that anyone can do it. It’s a tough barrier to break. But obviously if you know someone who does it, they can strive to do it too. .
My end goal, I would like to get a medal in the Olympics…I really think that’s realistic
Wiffen was also setting ambitions around the Irish record in the 800m freestyle and that was shattered when he became the first Irish swimmer to qualify for a final in a World Championship event, again in Budapest this summer.
Swimming in lane one of heat three out of four, he clocked 7:46.32, knocking more than four seconds off the previous record of 7:50.74, which he set in April.
He now has the 10 fastest Irish performances in men’s 800m freestyle history and has broken the Irish record for the distance four times. A feature of his best strokes was negative splits, an ability to pace himself faster in the second half of the race than in the first.
“Yeah, that’s definitely important, especially in the 800m,” he said. “At the world championships I had a negative split, where the first 400m was slower than the second 400m. I think that’s the way I have to do it. I do it in training and I guess it’s is the reward. He comes out in the race.
“I know that when I train my strategy is to train the way I run. I like to say I’m detailed. My old coach used to kick me out of training if I missed times. 100th of a second Yes it was [severe]. I was only 15 at the time. I was taught to be disciplined, to hit the times to get to the top.
“He told me he wouldn’t do it for anyone else. He said he knew I loved training and running so much that it would have a positive effect on me. I would come back the next day to hit all the times. He was right, yes.
As he now looks to further World Championships in 2023 and the Paris Olympics the following year, Wiffen places nothing in his way of believing in the possibility of an Olympic medal.
A nod that needs to be streamlined, he says, is a simple fix to help bite deeper into his era. Race strategy will also be streamlined as he gains more experience.
Wiffen isn’t afraid to challenge himself to big wins, either. He talks about heavy workloads as a friend and a headlong attitude in training that has already hardened his faith.
“My ultimate goal is to medal at the Olympics,” he says. “Yeah, I really think it’s realistic. Looking at my races, there are so many pointers that I’ve seen, where I know I can improve and lower the times even further.
“I’m not even that far away. The times I did over the summer were only 10 seconds away from a medal and the multiple mistakes I made… I can lose 10 seconds if I can improve on them.
“First of all, I can be more stable on the course if you know what I mean. I keep moving my head up and down when I’m swimming. If I keep that line flat and my head stays neutral, you can easily save 10 seconds by doing this.
“It just causes a lot of drag. No, it’s not easy to fix. But I’m working on it. It’s a big three-year plan for the next Olympic Games. I have some time to work on it. »
Aware of the possibilities that lie ahead, he trains and lives in England with his identical twin brother Nathan. He too is a promising swimmer, who hopes to break through next year.
“I can see something special coming from him,” he says of Nathan. “We could have twins on the team. That would be great.”
In no more than 25 years have Irish swimming records seemed so fleeting with numbers plummeting at every serious gala. For Wiffen it’s not if but when over eight lengths, or 30 lengths, the records already confirming a keen sense of direction.
“I love being the hardest worker in the pool,” he says. “I guess that’s just my mentality.”