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Rio Paralympics: Bethany Firth staying cool as more gold beckons

By David Kelly

Published 13/09/2016

Bethany Firth celebrates 200m freestyle gold
Bethany Firth celebrates 200m freestyle gold
Fan club: Club mates cheer Bethany Firth on at a special screening in Ards Leisure Centre

Bethany Firth is taking double Paralympic gold medal success all in her stride, according to coach Nelson Lindsay.

Lindsay, head coach at her club Ards as well as in Rio as part of the Team GB&NI staff, has been delighted with how the 20-year-old from Seaforde has risen to the occasion and maintained her focus at the halfway point of a heavy schedule.

With the 100m backstroke and 200m freestyle gold medals in the bag, Firth is expected to medal again in the 100m breaststroke - relatively speaking her weakest event - tomorrow evening before going on to complete her programme on Saturday in the 200m individual medley where gold will once again be in her sights.

On Sunday there was some concern ahead of the 200m freestyle final over the stomach cramps she had suffered in the morning, but she nevertheless delivered gold and Lindsay insists that it is no longer an issue.

"Bethy is really loving the whole experience. Team GB are naturally delighted with her performances but as a grumpy coach I wanted to see another world record as well in the 200m free!" said Lindsay.

"She has focused really well on what she has had to do, been very calm and I have no doubt there is more to come.

"All the swimmers have been told to stay off social media until their events are finished so there are no distractions. Bethy isn't getting carried away, she wants to make sure she can go and have a shot at more medals.

"Spending a bit of time relaxing with her family was good and she will tick over before the breaststroke on Wednesday.

"The Spanish girl Michelle Morales Alonso will be the favourite but you just never know. Then she will look ahead to the 200m individual medley on Saturday which is another medal opportunity.

"It's been a great performance so far and to be here watching means a lot to me, but it is a team effort that has got her here - the people at the Sports Institute have been a big support to Bethy."

While Lindsay was cheering her on from the stands in Rio, back at Ards Leisure Centre club members had gathered together to roar support for their popular club captain.

Assistant head coach Davy Johnston was one of those packed into the room along with other coaches and officials as well as the mayor Deborah Girvan.

Coach Johnston explained: "There was a great atmosphere with everyone willing her on to gold.

"Naturally she is an inspiration to all the swimmers, but Bethy's performances also do a lot for the coaches and the people behind the scenes - the people who keep the club ticking over. And it's not easy when funding is very tight.

"Bethy's success has raised the profile of the club and we would be hopeful that it could lead to a boost in sponsorship. The costs of running the club are very high.

"So when Bethy puts in performances like the one she did on Sunday night it creates a buzz and helps the coach get out of bed for the 4.20am training session."

Belfast Telegraph

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