At 18 years of age when she competed in the Canadian trials for the 1932 Summer Olympics, Irene Mullen of Hamilton, Ontario was considered a rising star on the national swimming scene and a shoo-in to represent Canada at the Games. She was certainly no stranger to the world of sports – her father, John E. Mullen, worked for the swimming committee of the 1930 British Empire Games and Irene herself had participated in local and national women’s basketball championships for several years and played on a successful city softball team. When the new civic swimming pool was built for the 1930 British Empire Games, she won the first ever race held in the pool (a demonstration event) and took home a large, ornate trophy for her achievements. It was rumored that her father had influenced the schedule so that the race in which Irene was the strongest would be held first, thus giving her the best chance of capturing the prize.
At the 1932 Summer Olympics, Mullen’s best hope at taking home a gold medal came in the 4 x 100 metre Freestyle Relay, but her team (consisting of Mullen, Ruth Kerr, and British Empire Games silver medalists Irene Pirie-Milton and Betty Edwards) finished fourth in a field of five nations. She also competed in the 100 metre individual freestyle event, but was eliminated in the first round. Shortly thereafter she retired from swimming entirely, for reasons unknown to even her own family, and never swam again – competitively or otherwise. Her husband William Warnick was a member of the Royal Hamilton Rowing Club and captured first place at one of the events at the 1932 Canadian Junior Rowing Championships.