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Our golden girl Bethany Firth in tearful Rio triumph

By Graham Luney

Published 12/09/2016

Record-breaker: Bethany Firth wins the S14 200m freestyle final in a new Games record time
Record-breaker: Bethany Firth wins the S14 200m freestyle final in a new Games record time

Swimmer Bethany Firth shed tears of pride last night after racing to her second gold medal at the Rio Paralympic Games.

The 20-year-old from Seaforde, who won the S14 100m backstroke prize on Thursday's opening day of the Games, lifted Northern Ireland's gold medal count to four after Glengormley man and Team Ireland athlete McKillop conquered searing heat to retain the T37 1500m title.

Jason Smyth from Eglinton retained his T13 100m title in Team Ireland colours on Friday and Great Britain swimmer Firth ensured the gold rush continued.

Firth clocked 2:03.30 in a new Games record time to finish ahead of Great Britain team-mate Jessica-Jane Applegate and Marlou Van Der Kulk.

"I'm so thankful it all came together. I wasn't feeling well this morning but Team GB got me up and going again," said Firth who will now try to add to her medal haul in the 100m breaststroke and 200m individual medley events.

Firth and Applegate were fastest qualifiers, but the Ulster swimmer is the world record holder and dominated the race, winning in a Paralympic record of two minutes 03.30 seconds.

Applegate, who was defending champion, having won the four lengths freestyle at London 2012, was second in 2mins 06.92secs.

Firth competes in the S14 classes, for competitors with an intellectual disability, and she raced in eight events at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

She had to sit out the 2015 World Championship after suffering a wrist injury.

McKillop was also relieved to deliver under pressure, holding off a challenge from Canada's Liam Stanley to win in 4:12.11.

"This one is special because I've come through a really tough time - and I'm just glad that I was able to go out and win because of the tough times," he said.

There was further GB joy as double amputee sprinter Richard Whitehead successfully defended his T42 200 metres title, claiming Britain's first track and field medal of the day with victory in 23.39 seconds. David Henson finished third in 24.74secs.

Britain claimed four medals from the four rowing finals, three of them gold.

Lauren Rowles and Laurence Whiteley won the double sculls and the mixed coxed four team of Pamela Relph, James Fox, Daniel Brown and Grace Clough, plus cox Oliver James, were victorious, too.

Rachel Morris, who made the transition from cycling to rowing after London 2012, began the gold rush, winning the arms-shoulders single sculls. Tom Aggar took bronze in the corresponding men's event.

It was Morris' second Paralympic gold, eight years after her cycling time-trial triumph in Beijing.

Lora Turnham and her pilot Corrine Hall won the tandem three-kilometres pursuit at the velodrome, before a momentous gold medal success for Jon-Allan Butterworth, injured while serving in Iraq, in the C1-5 team sprint with Jody Cundy and Louis Rolfe. The trio are world champions.

Butterworth claimed three silver medals at London 2012 and his gold, as part of the team success, was significant for British service personnel injured in Iraq or Afghanistan.

It was the first time a veteran injured in those conflicts has won Paralympic gold.

Amy Marren, who was born without a right hand, was the fastest qualifier in the women's SM9 200m individual medley, but was overtaken in the final 15m as Lin Ping of China took gold. Lin won in 2:35.64 and Marren finished in 2:36.26.

Rebecca Redfearn finished second in the SB13 100m breaststroke final as Fotimakhon Amilova of Uzbekistan won from lane one in a world record of 1:12.45, beating the mark which Redfearn set in Sheffield earlier this year.

The 16-year-old from Worcester had to be content with a European best of 1:13.81.

Tom Hamer also claimed silver in the S14 200m freestyle. Tang Wai Lok of Hong Kong won gold in 1:56.32 and Hamer took silver in 1:56.58.

Belfast Telegraph

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