Daniel Wiffen, from Magheralin, needs no introduction in the world of professional swimming, being the first Irish swimmer ever to go under 15 minutes in a 1500m freestyle event.
The 21-year-old attended St Patrick’s Grammar School Armagh prior to going to Loughborough University to study computer science.
And he trained in the Loughborough University Swimming Team, which is regarded as one of the world’s best swimming programmes.
Last year, Daniel was ranked number one in the world in two different events – the 800m and 1500m freestyle – and set a new European record in the 800m freestyle in December.
With a time of 7:25.96, this was the fourth fastest time ever posted for the 800m.
He was also the first Northern Ireland swimmer ever to achieve a Commonwealth Games medal in Birmingham 2022, claiming silver in the men’s 1500m freestyle.
In Budapest in June, Daniel also became the first ever Irish swimmer to make the final of a World Championship, placing eighth in the 800m freestyle.
In November the student stormed to a new Irish record in the men’s 800m freestyle at the British Universities & Colleges (BUCS) Short Course Championships in Sheffield.
He also became the first Irish swimmer to break 15 minutes for the 1500m – and set the new Irish men’s 400m record at the 2022 Scottish National Short Course Championships.
It’s also a family affair for the Wiffens, with Daniel’s twin brother Nathan competing too.
After what was undoubtedly an incredible year, the Magheralin twins have continued their winning streak into the new 2023 LC swimming season, where they have competed at the Irish Open Championships in Dublin.
The first day was the 400m freestyle. After fantastic heat swims, Daniel and Nathan claimed the two middle lanes. Daniel took the first 200m out hard to obtain an early lead with Nathan in 3rd place. Nathan then steadily picked up the pace to close out the race in second place behind Daniel (3:52.83) with a time of 3:54.65.
Daniel also set a new Championship record in this event. He only needed to achieve the qualifying time in the 400m freestyle to go with his other two events (800m and 1500m freestyle) for the World Championships in Japan in July.
Nathan continued the Wiffen podium success in the 800m freestyle. He claimed the gold medal in a time of 8:03.79, setting a new Championship record with the second fastest 800m ever from an Irishman.
The final day brought the 1500m freestyle. Nathan has not swam in this event for a couple of years, but was on superb form yet again. He swam a strong race and finished two lengths ahead of his nearest competitor to claim gold with a time of 15:34.17.
At the Swim Open event in Stockholm in April, Daniel had his best swimming weekend ever, making three Irish records in the 400m, 800m and 1500m.
His 1500m swim was the fastest this year and ranks him as the fourth fastest ever!
Daniel’s next big event will be the World Championships in Japan this July.
“I’m aiming to be on the podium and have a shot at the world record in 1500m,” he said.
The thought of managing a professional swimming career alongside university studies would be a prospect much too daunting for most of us, but Daniel seems to be coping well.
He explained: “I’ve got exams coming up soon, so they’re more my priority at the moment to get that done and finish my year. I guess it is hard to balance them both, but I think I’m doing OK at the moment.
“I’m going to continue training the way I’m going at the moment, which involves 26-plus hours a week in the pool.”
Daniel says that while he still has places to go, he is happy with his swimming career so far.
“I’ve been swimming for a long time now, 10 years, so I feel like now the work is starting to pay off that I’ve been putting in over the years. I do love it a lot. I basically don’t know life without swimming.”
He added: “I started because of my older brother, he started and my parents urged me to do it as well. I think I just did it so much that I thought why don’t I just carry this on to University? Then I started getting good when I was around 17 and just kept going.”