SWIMMING: Ferguson sets sights on another record

Jordanstown's Conor Ferguson. Photograph: Presseye. INLT 35-911-CON
Jordanstown's Conor Ferguson. Photograph: Presseye. INLT 35-911-CON

Swimming sensation Conor Ferguson is eyeing up another record-breaking time at this week’s World Junior Championships in Singapore.

Fresh from twice breaking the Irish junior 100m backstroke record on the first day of competition yesterday (Tuesday), the teenager is targeting the 200m backstroke Irish senior national record.

Conor Ferguson in action.  Photograph: Presseye INLT 35-911-CON

Conor Ferguson in action. Photograph: Presseye INLT 35-911-CON

To do that, the Jordanstown lad will have to beat Carl Burdis’s time of 2:01.70. Ferguson’s personal best - an Irish junior record - is 2:03.12, which he recorded in March.

“My coach and I have sat down and worked out what I need to do to go 2:01,” said Ferguson ahead of jetting out to the competition. “We’ve worked out what times I need to hit.

“If I can go below the current record it would be a great achievement. It’s been my goal since the start of the year.”

Ferguson broke 56 seconds for the first time in the 100m backstroke on Tuesday, knocking .23 of a second off the record of 56.17 he set at the recent Irish Age Group Championships.

He went on to smash it again, clocking 55.60 in the faster of the two semi-finals, placing him twelfth overall.

He returns to the pool for the 50m backstroke heats on Thursday (August 27).

At just 15, he’s is an exciting prospect for Irish swimming. He’s up against strong opponents - some of whom are three years his senior. But he feels the experience at the worlds will serve to make him a better swimmer.

“I think I’d like to make a final in one of the distances (50m, 100m or 200m). Because it’s 18 and under, it’s going to be quite hard,” he admitted. “I’ve been training hard and I’m feeling good.”

Asked if he thrives on the pressure that comes with pitting himself against the world’s best, he replied: “I think I earn the pressure that comes with competition. Some people think of it as a bad thing, but I like to think of it as a good thing. Pressure motivates me.

“Yes, I get nervous before a race, but I can’t control what the guy beside me does and I don’t really fear anyone.”

Such is his talent, he won three golds at the British Age Group championships at just 13, setting an Ulster 200m backstroke record (under-17). At the Irish Short Course (25m) National Championships in December he became the first Irish junior to break the two-minute barrier, touching in 1:59.19.

After Singapore, his next stop is Samoa in September’s Commonwealth Youth Games where he is relishing the chance to pushing for a podium spot.

“If I could get a medal, it would be such a bonus. I’m targeting a top-five but I’ll have tough competition from the guys from Australia, England, Scotland and Wales. It will be a great experience for me,” he added.