Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

Meet World Champion Swimmer Kerrywoman Claire O’Connell

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Kerrywoman Claire O’Connell recently made waves in Doha, claiming a World Champion swimming title. She recorded the fastest time in the 50-metre women’s breaststroke event, racing in the 30-34 age category with an exceptional time of 34.07 seconds.

“It has been mental since I have arrived home, between celebrations, interviews and meeting with junior clubs,” she tells me. “I took some time out of the pool, just a week! And was back in then, but at a reduced rate”.

See Claire O’Connell’s race from Doha below:

An incredible feat, it should come as no surprise that Claire is no stranger to winning having claimed numerous National Titles when she was younger and Swimming for Kingdom Swimming Club.

She represented Ireland at different events four times before she was 20 and gained the qualifying time to train with the High-Performance Squad at 18, a major achievement for her and her coach, Ger Mc Donald.

Since then, Claire has broken numerous Irish Master Records and once again, has represented Ireland in the Europeans in both London and Finland and the World Games in New Zealand. She even managed to medal in both Finland and New Zealand!

But how did Claire O’Connell reach this fantastic stage in her life?

A lot of hard work, no doubt! Claire has been involved in swimming from a young age. Her Dad and Uncle were and are coaches for the Kingdom Swimming Club in Tralee, and all her brothers and cousins were involved with swimming too.

“I actually can’t remember when I started to realise I liked it to be honest. I can always just remember liking it and I’m a very competitive person!” she muses.

Naturally, it was only a matter of time before she followed in their footsteps though she admits, along with dreams of swimming, she also wanted to become a teacher. And she did!

Claire currently teaches Gaeilge, Geography, Business and Economics in Presentation Secondary School, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork though commutes from Tipperary where she lives with her fiancé Liam and dog Cú Chulainn.

Claire tells me that she loves living in Emly. “It’s a fabulous village and all the community is so welcoming! But, I do miss Kerry and every midterm/holiday, I come home,” she adds. “I would love to live in Kerry but the lack of work available in Kerry along with other factors doesn’t allow for that. It makes coming home all the sweeter.”

In Tipperary Town, she trains in the Sean Tracey Pool, where she muses that the friendly staff are just one of the reasons training is so manageable there.

“In preparation for Doha, I was training in the water 6 times a week, and in the gym 3 times,” she says. “I actually had to increase my food intake, as I wasn’t eating enough for the amount of training I was doing. It was a varied diet, with an increase in protein in all meals.”

Claire O'Connell in the racing pool for swimming.

Claire does a variety of weights in the gym. “One-day arms and core, another legs and core and finally a mix of everything and good stretching!” she says.

“The pool varies every session. My coach Ger McDonald, of Kingdom Swimming Club, made the sessions for me! They had a variety of sprint sets to distance sets. Some of the longer sets were 5000m and some of the shorter sprint sets could be 3000m. It was tough but absolutely worth it!”

Claire tells me that she doesn’t have any rituals coming up to a race and tries not to overthink it as she would get too nervous. The only time she thinks about it is when she’s lining up to leap off from the starting point.

“Before races, I just try to focus on the race,” she explains. “Nothing else goes through my head to be head at that moment. For the World’s, I asked a few of my closest friends to add songs to a playlist on Spotify that would motivate me! But, ‘Unstoppable’ by Sia, is my favourite song to get me going!”

She was ecstatic to have immense support from people cheering her on from home especially the support over the years from her parents, Mike and Liz O’Connell, brothers (Mike, Brendan and James) and fiancé, Liam, whom she felt were with her every step of the way over there.

“A big thank you to my coach Ger Mc Donald who gave me loads of challenging sessions,” she adds.

“Kingdom Swimming Club, Tipperary Sharks, Kingdom Masters Swimming Club, Presentation Secondary staff members, Mitchelstown Leisure Centre, Sean Tracey Swimming pool, Tipperary and O’Donnells Engineering, Emly, who all sponsored me in different ways!”

As for the future, while Claire doesn’t have any upcoming races, she is still swimming but at a reduced scale. The big news though? “I’m getting married in August, so I am concentrating on preparing for that and enjoying the build-up to the big day!”

May she have continued success in her career and the forthcoming nuptials. No doubt, exciting times lay ahead.


I'm a freelance content creator, author, and journalist who has a strong desire to share interesting content about Irish people and things about Ireland at home and abroad. I am constantly curious.

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