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Saturday 3 December 2016

Fiona's grandfather (84) among family cheering her in Rio

Swimmer Fiona Doyle with her grandfather, Michael Picture: Laurie Mannix
Swimmer Fiona Doyle with her grandfather, Michael Picture: Laurie Mannix
Fiona's grandfather, Michael, and members of her family who travelled to Rio

It was a dream come true for Olympic swimmer Fiona Doyle.

The 24-year-old finished 20th in the 100m breast stroke at the Olympic Games in Rio yesterday.

Even though she failed to qualify for the semi-finals, she was still over the moon as her proud family, including her 84-year-old grandfather Michael Doyle, flew to Rio at the weekend to cheer her on.

"She gave it her all. It was a great achievement," said family friend Laurie Mannix.

No one could be more proud than her grandfather, who founded St Paul's Swimming Club in Limerick in the 1970s, where her love of the water was born.

Although he wasn't a competitive swimmer himself, Michael saw a need for a swim group for local children and secured funding for the club.

Generations

Since then, the club has taught thousands of young people to swim, including many who have gone on to compete at regional, national and international levels. It has also been a training ground for several generations of lifeguards and swim instructors.

But for Fiona, who started training as a competitive swimmer at the age of 12, it was her spiritual home.

Her delighted grandfather was full of pride as he watched her swim yesterday, joined by other members of Fiona's family in Rio. Her father Jim and brother Shane were able to give Fiona their best wishes in a ten-minute visit at the Olympic village on Saturday night.

"She was in great form and really looking forward to the swim," Ms Mannix said.

"She was absolutely thrilled that her grandfather was able to come."

Although she didn't do as well as she would have liked yesterday, the family is still immensely proud of her achievement and all of the work she has been putting into the Olympics since she was a child.

"It's a very proud day for her," she said.

Unfortunately, Fiona's twin sister Eimear and her other sisters Ciara (21) and Sinead (30) were absent from the games.

Eimear is also a competitive swimmer who trained for the Olympics but was forced to pull out following a back injury.

Her sisters were forced to cancel their trips of a lifetime to cheer Fiona over the much-publicised risk of birth defects from contracting the Zika virus.

devastating But for Fiona, who has been dreaming of Olympic glory since she was a child, nothing was going to stop her from taking her "only shot" at her dream - even if it meant risking contracting the mosquito-borne virus and having to forego having children in the future.

"As much as I want children, this is something that I've wanted for years and if it means taking that risk, then I'll take that risk and hopefully I'll be fine," she said before the Games.

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