Conor Ferguson, 17, & A Question of 0.05sec; Shane Ryan Set To Get Irish Eyes Smiling

Shane Ryan, of Ireland

The FINA A time is 54.36 for the men’s 100m backstroke but perhaps Swimming Ireland will look kindly on the 54.41 in which 17-year-old Conor Ferguson claimed the national title in Dublin this evening a touch ahead of Shane Ryan, who can race for Ireland from May 13 after a switch from the USA, and is has already qualified for Rio 2016

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I’m surprised that Shane Ryan has received criticism for representing Ireland. I presume it’s coming from within the swimming community as, in general, sports fans are very welcoming to athletes from overseas who decide to compete for Ireland. Our soccer team has made the most of the grandparent rule and at one time mostly comprised players from the U.K. They were considered heroes.Their connections were more tenuous; Ryan’s are very genuine. I am delighted he has moved here and committed himself to the country.
I hope Conor Ferguson gets the nod for Rio.

Felix Sanchez

I can understand people who don’t like to see the tenuous nationality switches, especially those where money comes into play, but a father? That should surely be beyond reach of criticism.

Craig Lord

Quite so, Felix, no issue, seems to me.


I remember the British fuss about Tiffany Porter and other ‘Plastic Brits’ leading up to the London Olympics. The domestic-based athletes seem to think they’ve got a pathway to international teams all sewn up but then someone swoops in and takes ‘their spot’ away from them.

The Americans, who often seem to train with a very diverse athlete group at the elite level, tend to be mellow sorts and Darian Townsend was welcomed with open arms when he took citizenship. Though among longtime fans, there’s still a bit of amusement how Mike Cavic from southern California started out competing for Serbia purely as a passport of convenience because he was stuck behind Ian Crocker and Michael Phelps and morphed into some sort of hard core Serbian nationalist over the years.


Beachmouse I struggle to see your point.

Craig Lord

beachmouse, those long-term fans would have it wrong, the record shows: Cavic raced for Yugoslavia at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games at 16 (he raced 100 fly, DQ in heats, and 100 back). His nationality, from birth, was set in his age group years (first selection at 14) before we knew anything about the powers of Phelps and Crocker. Yes, Mike he was in southern California – but Milorad he was also known as to his family both sides of the pond – from birth. (At European champs, he was always Milorad Cavic to us, just as he was Mike over in the US). Shane Ryan is hardly a ‘plastic’ Irishman: his dad and all his family on that side are Irish. He has every right to claim Irish citizenship, in just the same way our children can chose my nationality or their mother’s. I wouldn’t wish anyone denying them that right, in sport or any other realm of life: they’ve grown up with both cultures, languages, sides of the family, regardless of where we choose to live – geography associates them with one place in the minds of some but they are definitively both 🙂 Their legal right as things stand is to be both (sport doesn’t allow that simultaneously, of course). Should they ever need to choose for any reason, there would be no sense of disloyalty to the side not chosen, if that makes sense. Seems to me Shane Ryan has made a sensible choice: he’s going to the Olympic Games to represent one of the two nations he had a right to compete for.


As someone who kept keen eye on US high school swimming even back then, we knew about Mike tearing up the very little pool in California even then. He made a perfectly reasonable choice to take an effectively guaranteed offer from Serbia to represent them while still in high school rather than rolling the dice at the US Trials where there are no sure things for any athlete.

And I also remember him talking about recently really getting in touch with his heritage when he stepped in it with the Kosovo is part of Serbia t-shirt, which was, IIRC at Euros several years past that.

Craig Lord

Yes, beachmouse, I remember it well – they kicked him out of the meet … as he stood on the podium for the 50 ‘fly in his sloganed t-shirt, no-one in the venue barring the teams in question had any idea what the words said. I thought it an overreaction. He shouldn’t have done it but a warning ‘rules state etc, don’t do it again’ would have sufficed. But a body stacked with folk steeped in politics and deal-making (going on right now as the latest LEN vote for leaders looms), some of it deeply unsavoury, decided that a naughty boy in a t-shirt needed to be made an example of because the red on his shirt was reflecting off their faces, and that would never do.


For those with no family ties to the “new country”, there is always a residency quotient (to qualify for citizenship) that must be served before being allowed to represent that nation.

Should this also be extended to those with dual “eligibilities” ? To my mind, yes. Whilst it is most certainly legal under current regimes, seeing people compete/or trial for a nation that they have sometimes never visited, let alone lived, is just a step too far for me.

I could be flexible on the current residency status but if not current resident status, there needs to have been some real tangible connections (ie birth/lived in that country for X amt of years).

Darian Townsend made few ripples due to (a) his long term residency in the US and (b) he was not really a selection threat for a full strength US team.

However, cases like the Litherland brothers attempting to qualify for NZL via the CAN trials was to my mind pushing the envelope to the furthest extremes. Yes, they have a NZL born father but they were born in the USA, US educated and have never lived in NZL.

Craig Lord

That scenario does not apply to Shane Ryan, CW – he has fulfilled residency criteria. I agree with the sense of unease with remote qualification attempts (which would, in the case you cite, not have worked anyway, residency criteria not having been met, seems to me).


Wasn’t sure of the details of the Ryan case so didn’t venture an opinion.

I have no problems with nation swapping as long as there is a clearly defined process and standards, at least for international representative sports. At present, its a mish-mash across various sports.


Wombat at least the Litherland brothers have an alliance to NZ which could not be said about Vyatchanin who has failed to have been mentioned. Now that one to me is a joke, how someone can just pick a country & swim for it with no allegiance & no history & has never lived there.

Craig Lord

felixdp – you also have to look at the circumstance that made him need to search for a new country or quit swimming. Care should be taken when judging those who live with oppression.


Not all sports or countries have a residency requirement. Figure skating can end up being a rather amusing carousel of nationalities in the pairs and dance events as the partner’s quality is more important than the passport and the concentration of elite coaches in a few select countries make residency hard. He’s from France, she’s from Japan, they’ve trained in the USA for 50 weeks a year the pas five years. Naturally they’re representing Georgia at the European Championships!

I just figure I’m doing well if I remember the Shibutanis represent the USA and the Reeds represent Japan in international competition.


Felix, the procedure for nation-swapping when there is no “blood-ties: is that you “sit out” X-Y number of years from international competition; this period may vary from sport to sport.

He has, actually, NOT represented Russia since 2012 so he is clear on that front however he hasn’t done himself any favours on the residency issue by spending the bulk of his time in the States. Whilst sympathetic to his circumstances, its quite clear that he failed to understand the full ramifications of making this change.

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