LIMERICK Olympian Fiona Doyle admits her Rio de Janeiro experience was ‘bittersweet’ as the 24-year-old considers her future in elite swimming.
The Raheen woman missed out on a place in the semi-final of her specialist event, the 100m breaststroke, at the Olympic Games after finishing eighth in her heat in a time of 1:07.58.
She was placed 20th overall, with the top 16 swimmers making it through to the semi-finals. The Limerick woman missed out on the semis by just .26 of a second.
Doyle later finished second in her heat of the 200m breaststroke in a time of 2:29.76, but failed to progress to the semi-finals.
Doyle told the Limerick Leader: ”My Olympic experience was bitter-sweet, I guess. It was exciting to be there, a fantastic experience, but I am still unhappy with how I performed knowing that I could have done better.
“My best time would have gotten fifth or sixth place in the final, so it was like I went with an unrealistic expectation. I knew what I could achieve and I didn't do that.
“It is disappointing, but I did try and make the most of the Olympic Games experience afterwards, taking in the other sports and get to cheer on other athletes. That was fine.
“It is extremely difficult to produce a best ever performance on the day. It is not even a matter of performing and better ready in terms of fitness and training wise, it is a matter of doing every single little piece right in the race. You only have one shot. It is not a case of 'oh, I did this wrong, I will do it again'.
“You only have one shot and particularly in my event it is not about how fast you move your arms and legs because sometimes that can be detrimental, it is very much about getting the start right, the breakout right.
“For me I have to get a certain amount of strokes in to the 50m mark. I knew at 25m I had made a mistake and I tried to correct it, but unfortunately at that point it was a bit too late.
“Turning at 50m, I knew there was a very good chance I wouldn't be able to come back from this. You try and take it out of your mind and go 'ok, well you only have 50m left, give it all you got' and I tried to come back from it but unfortunately it wasn't enough, but it was the second fastest time I had ever done so that is not to be sniffed at.
“I knew what it was going to take to make the semi-final and I knew I was capable of doing it. On the day I just didn't do it.
“I am not one for excuses. I made a mistake and I have to live with that now.
“I have watched the race back. My coach wouldn't let me leave without watching it. For me it is upsetting, because I can watch a race and know exactly what id did wrong.
“In hindsight you can say 'oh you should have done this or that, but when you are in the race it is a little big harder. I guess that is how the Olympics goes."
Doyle, a silver and bronze mdeallist from the 2015 World University Games, hit out at the Olympic organisers, the IOC, and the world swimming governing body, FINA, after her 100m breaststroke heat was won by Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova’s who had previously banned for drug use.
Doyle said her critical comments would have been made irrespective of how she had fared in her heat that day.
Doyle said: “I completely stand over what I said. Those comments were made regardless of my racing. They would have been made if I had done absolutely fantastic.
“The question was asked after I made comments on the actual race how I felt and it moved on and I was asked about how I felt about doping and the incidents leading up to the Olympics.
“I still stand by them. I din’t think it is fair that clean athletes are having to continuously race against athletes that are doping and the fact that Efimova could turn around at one point and say ‘it’s just like yoghurt’ I don’t think that’s fair. In her head she is rationalising it to make it ok and it’s not ok.
“I bust my ass every single day in training to try to improve myself and there are many other athletes like me doing that same thing, knowing ‘yes, we could probably take stuff to improve it' but that is not how we want to go. We want to do it right.
“It is not fair that politics is dictating how we have to compete in sport. It comes down to politics, it has nothing to do with sport.”
Doyle, who studied Kinesiology at the University of Calgary, is unsure what her future in swimming holds.
“In terms of swimming I am not 100% sure what is next for me. I have World Short Course Championships in December in Windsor, Canada. My coach is trying very hard to get me back to that.
“We will see. I am kinda at the age where another four years of swimming is I dunno, it’s up in the air.
“As a female swimmer I am actually coming to the older end of things.
“The average age for female swimmers at the Olympics was between 24 and 26. There are females who go on to 28.
“Swimming doesn’t pay, it’s not like golf, or other sports where you can make a career out of it, so I have to look at the future as well.
“I am currently deciding what to do. I might swim for the year and go to World Short Course and World Championships. I am looking into doing med school next September, so I am trying to work that out. If I can stay in Canada I might swim through that. If I come home, I don’t think I will be swimming.
“I am already back in the gym lifting and running. We will think about the pool, but you still have to be fit and I will stay fit so that I can make the decision.
“As I said in Rio, I am faster, fitter and stronger than I have ever been before. That is not a lie. I was training faster than ever before. In one sense I would like to keep going and see what I can give and how fast I can go. At the same time I have to think about my career after swimming and what I can do after swimming too.”