Ireland's Daniel Wiffen pictured after receiving his gold medal today with the Australian Elijah Winnington, left, and Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy. [Inpho/Andrea Masini]

Wiffen wins gold, makes history

Ireland’s Daniel Wiffen won gold earlier Wednesday in the in the 800 meter freestyle final at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha, UAE.

The 22-year-old native of Magheralin, Co. Armagh, is the first ever Irish winner at the world championships.

Wiffen, the second fastest in qualifying, had a winning time of 7:40.94, while Australian Elijah Winnington of Australia was second, with 7:42.95, just edging out by .03 the Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, who’d been fastest in qualifying.

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"Amazing," media outlets report the gold-medalist saying following his victory. "Obviously, the goal coming into this meet was to win a medal and be on the top podium for Ireland.

"It's Ireland's first ever medal at world championship level and that's really cool to say.

"I'm amazed. I really wanted to win this one, especially after breaking the [short-course] world record in December. To go on and win the world championships is just class."

Wiffen, a student at Loughborough University in Leicestershire who placed fourth at last year’s both the 800 meter and 1500 meter world championships finals in Japan, said, "It was just really trying to build the confidence in myself, make sure I can trust it and really execute my own race plan and that's what I did, so I'm very happy.

"Hopefully I don't get too emotional on the podium,” said the swimmer whose parents were poolside, “but yeah, I'm just ecstatic and I just can't wait to get on this podium and grab that medal."

The heats for the 1500 meter freestyle begin on Saturday morning.