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Paralympics: Our golden girl Bethany Firth on high after Rio hat-trick


By Graham Luney

Published 19/09/2016

Golden smile: Bethany Firth proudly displays her third gold medal at the Paralympics in Brazil
Golden smile: Bethany Firth proudly displays her third gold medal at the Paralympics in Brazil

Swimmer Bethany Firth is coming to terms with her status as Northern Ireland's new golden girl after her heroics at the Paralympics in Brazil.

The Seaforde ace became the fifth female Paralympian to claim a trio of gold medals at a single Games - no male Paralympian has yet achieved this distinction.

Firth clinched first place on the podium after winning the women's SM14 200m individual medley on Saturday night.

Smashing her own Paralympic record with a time of 2:19.55, it was the latest glorious chapter in a remarkable success story.

Her golden hat-trick came after she successfully defended her 100m backstroke title and won the 200m freestyle gold in Rio last week.

The 20-year-old also won a silver medal in the 100m breaststroke final, considered the weakest of her four events.

Proud Firth, who competes in the S14 class for swimmers with an intellectual disability, said: "I wanted to do something special and I'm so happy with my performance."

Her record-breaking win saw her clinch victory ahead of her British team-mate Jessica-Jane Applegate.

Oliver Hynd smashed the world record in the 200m individual medley SM8 to retain his Paralympic title, while Firth's team-mate Hannah Russell won her second gold medal in the 50m freestyle S12.

"We're such a good team, Great Britain were really pushing each other on," Firth said. "When we saw Ollie win his gold and Hannah win the gold, it just sort of pushes us all on."

Britain won gold medals in 11 sports, with archery taking two on the penultimate day.

Following John Walker's win on Friday, 16-year-old Jessica Stretton beat team-mate Jo Frith in the women's wheelchair final 137-124, after Vicky Jenkins had claimed bronze.

Maria Lyle took bronze in the T35 200m on the athletics track to make it 130 British medals before Sarah Storey's gold and bronze for Crystal Lane behind her team-mate.

The men's wheelchair basketball squad added bronze with an 82-76 defeat of Turkey.

There were two sailing bronze medals - for Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell in the two-person keelboat and for Helena Lucas in the one-person keelboat.

Lucas was the first selected for Britain's Olympic or Paralympic team for Rio in April 2015 and conceded the overnight lead by placing 15th in the final race.

Steve Bate and pilot Adam Duggleby took bronze in the men's tandem road race event and 15-year-old swimmer Ellie Robinson was third in the S6 100m freestyle.

It was the first of nine medals in the pool, with silvers for Steph Millward and 13-year-old Abby Kane, the youngest of Paralympics GB's 264 athletes.

Andrew Mullen finished with bronze in the S5 100m freestyle behind Brazil's Daniel Dias, who won his 14th Paralympic gold and fourth from Rio 2016.

However, David Weir's miserable Paralympics continued yesterday as he withdrew from the Rio marathon before saying: "Sometimes I feel like I've been stabbed in the back."

The 37-year-old wheelchair racer took to the start line in Paralympic competition for the final time - he says he will retire after April's London Marathon - but withdrew after the first time check at 5km following a clash of chairs which damaged his.

Six-time Paralympic champion Weir, who won four gold medals from four events, including the marathon, at London 2012, was third at the first time check in the T54 event, which Switzerland's Marcel Hug won ahead of Kurt Fearnley of Australia.

"Maybe it was a Paralympics too far," Weir said. "It's an individual sport and I realised that this time. Sometimes I feel like I've been stabbed in the back.

Weir would not elaborate on his comments, but insisted he was not referring to Paula Dunn, the British Athletics Paralympic programme head coach.

Belfast Telegraph

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