American-born Irish swimmer Shane Ryan is ready to ignore the naysayers and critics when he represents Ireland at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio.
Ryan became Ireland’s second swimmer to reach the Olympic standard for Rio 2016 by clocking 53.93 seconds in his gold medal performance in the 100m backstroke final at the Swim Ireland Dave McCullagh/Swim Ulster International in Bangor, back in March.
Ryan, who hails from Pennsylvania in the United States, is a former member of the US National team but qualifies to represent Ireland through his father who is from Portarlington in Laois and he holds a dual citizenship.
The 22-year-old becomes fully eligible to represent Ireland on 13 May and is eager to silence his critics with his performances in the pool.
"I have every right to be over here," he told RTÉ Sport’s John Kenny. "My father is from Ireland, my great grand-parents are all from here, I’ve a lot of family and I’ve every right to be here.
"I’m trying to represent Ireland the best I can and I’ve got some great support from the Irish people. No matter what sport you play, they’re always going to be there supporting you, no matter what or where you’re from so it’s just great.
"I've got some negative feedback and stuff like that but you can’t really do much about that. There’s always going to be some naysayer so you’ve just got to put them aside and move on, put your head down and keep following the black line.
“It is a bit frustrating because once I turn fully Irish in May, I’ll be able to set records. I know some people are not too happy about that but I've lived here and I've got Irish roots here."
Ryan also revealed that he hopes to represent Ireland and the European Championships.
“I came over here on May 13 and the European Championship is on May 16 so if all the paperwork goes through with FINA, I should be able to represent Ireland in the Europeans, that’s what we hope.”
Ryan admitted that it took a period of adjustment for him when he first began training and competing in Ireland due to the change in distance.
"When I first came the training was much different because I hadn’t really trained long course before but now I’m training long course all year," he said.
"I knew I could do it, it was just different training and better training and getting my body used to that and I don’t think I was used to it so my body wasn’t ready to race as much.
"But towards the end of the year, I definitely built a base up and I’m happy with it so I can’t complain."
Speaking of his Olympic qualification time, he added: “It was just relief, it was just ‘thank God I finally got it.’ I’d put in all the hard work and I knew I could do it, I just took the time to work and prepare myself for it.
"I raced the best race I could at the time and I got it so I was really more just like relieved and now the pressure’s off I can focus on my training and focus on maybe getting on a relay spot to Rio and other events too."