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Golden girl Bethany made a big splash in Rio

By Steven Beacom

Bethany Firth was the queen of the pool in the 2016 Paralympics.

The 20-year-old had the competition of her young life in Rio, winning three gold medals and one silver in a sensational show of swimming.

Four years previously, the then teenager had claimed one gold at the London Games. If that was good, what she achieved in Brazil was great.

There was a sign of the stunning feats to come from Firth in the heats of the S14 100m backstroke when she broke the World record for that event.

In the final, the Team GB star may have been the big favourite, but she coped with the pressure brilliantly, delivering a stunning swim to not only finish first and win the gold medal but also to break her own World record in a breathtaking time of 1:04.05 - over two seconds ahead of her nearest competitor.

As Bethany looked up at the scoreboard, her big smile and joy were there for all to see.

"I was so pleased to have won and to have broken the World record in the final made the victory even better," said Bethany.

"I could not have done it without the support back home, they've all been behind me. It's not just my medal, it's theirs as well."

There was more, much more, to come from the talented young lady from Ards Swimming Club.

That first victory had laid down a marker and provided Bethany with confidence to go on and scale even more heights.

She claimed further gold medals in the 200m freestyle and 200m individual medley plus a silver in the 100m breaststroke.

With those four medals around her neck, she returned home as Northern Ireland's latest sporting superhero.

Bethany says it is hard for her to pick out a favourite medal from Rio, but that first gold medal and World record-breaking performance set the tone and outlined that she meant business in Brazil.

"It was a wonderful experience for me in Rio," she said.

"I loved every minute of it."

Belfast Telegraph

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