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Rio Paralympics: Bethany Firth thrilled to land silver in tight duel

By David Kelly

Published 15/09/2016

Impressive: Bethany Firth takes silver and hails 100m breaststroke champion Michelle Morales Alonso
Impressive: Bethany Firth takes silver and hails 100m breaststroke champion Michelle Morales Alonso

Bethany Firth produced another highly impressive performance in the pool last night to add silver to the two golds she had already won at the Paralympics in Rio.

The 20-year-old Seaforde woman had entered the event placed third and well off the pace of gold medal winner Michelle Morales Alonso of Spain but an electric start put her in front and only a fraction behind at the turn.

The two women gave the fans in the aquatic centre a race to remember as they battled out for gold with the Spaniard touching in 1:12.62, just one hundredth of a second off her own S14 world record. Firth clocked 1:12.89 to take silver ahead of Holland's Magda Toeters in 1:17.35.

After retaining the title she won in London four years ago, Alonso punched the air in delight before receiving a hug from Firth who was thrilled with her medal-winning effort.

"I'm really not a breaststroker so come here and do that is great. It's the Spanish girl's favourite event," said Firth.

"Those girls I was racing against are specialists in breaststroke so to go against them in my fun event was really exciting.

"I have had to do a lot more events than other swimmers so to get silver, I could not ask for more.

"All those mornings training, my coach pushing me hard - it's all worth it when you're getting onto the podium."

Firth will now look ahead to her final event on Saturday when she competes in the 200m individual medley. That will provide the Ards club swimmer with another chance to strike gold.

"I'm really looking forward to it and you never know what will happen," she added.

Ards head coach and Team GB&NI coach Nelson Lindsay is quietly confident that Firth can finish on a high with another gold at the end of a heavy schedule in Rio.

"She has a very good chance. Bethy's looking very good here, - you can see that she rises to the occasion," said Lindsay.

It was another good night in the pool for the British swimmers with Aaron Moores winning the S14 men's 100m breaststroke ahead of Scott Quin and Michael Jones won the S7 400m freestyle ahead of Jonathan Fox.

Susie Rodgers claimed bronze in the corresponding women's race.

Irish swimmer Ellen Keane (right) won a bronze medal in the SB8 Women's 100m breaststroke, finishing in 1:23.07, three seconds behind gold medal winner Katarina Roxan of Canada.

Great Britain surpassed their London 2012 haul of gold medals as Dame Sarah Storey won her 13th Paralympic title and Kadeena Cox her second.

Storey (38) became Britain's most successful female Paralympian when her 12th gold in the C5 individual pursuit saw her overtake wheelchair racer Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson's haul of 11 gold medals. And Storey added her 13th with a dominant win in the 20 kilometres road time trial.

Eoghan Clifford and the tandem pairing of Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal have each won gold medals for Ireland in the C3 and Women's B road cycling Time Trials respectively.

Despite a chain slip off in the middle of the race, Clifford secured his second medal of the Games in a fantastic time of 38.21.79, a full one minute and eight seconds ahead of Masaki Fujita of Japan.

Meanwhile, Alex Zanardi's first Brands Hatch success was in winning Paralympic cycling gold - and he repeated the trick in Rio with his first win on Brazilian soil.

The 49-year-old Italian successfully defended his H5 road time-trial title and will target his fourth Paralympic gold in the road race today.

Zanardi, who had both legs amputated following a motor-racing crash in 2001, won at Pontal in 28 minutes 36.81 seconds.

The ex-Formula One driver won two hand bike gold medals at Brands Hatch during London 2012, having never won at the Kent circuit during his successful motorsport career.

"Where today you have the Olympic Stadium, on that piece of land they used to have an Indy Car circuit, which is where I won my very first pole position," Zanardi said.

"When it was announced that the Olympic Stadium was going to be built there I thought 'wow, I've always loved that place and been super-fast there'.

"But for some reason or another I never managed to win a race so I thought maybe it is time to go back to Rio and win something and put that right. Today that happened. As it happened at Brands Hatch in London, 2012."

Belfast Telegraph

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