Belfast Telegraph

Young Player of the Year winner: Bethany Firth

Bethany Firth was born on Valentine's Day in 1996 and there was lots of love for the teenager from Seaforde when she won a gold medal in the swimming pool at the Paralympics.

Competing for Ireland in the S14 100 metres backstroke, Bethany came up with the swim of her life to finish first sparking great scenes of celebration in the Aquatic Centre.

What a performance from the 16-year-old who had only taken up the sport three years ago and to think before the race she had been suffering from a shoulder injury!

After her victory Bethany came out with a classic quote: “I didn't really like water before, but I like it now.”

Bethany's time was 1:08.93, a personal best. The hope entering the final was that she would win a bronze, but she came up with much more than that to the delight of proud parents Peter and Lindsey.

Like last year's Young Player of the Year Sycerika McMahon, Bethany is well used to early starts with her training sessions at the swimming pool in Newtownards.

All that hard work paid off with victories in April in the British Disability Championships in the S14 100m backstroke and 100m breastroke.

Committed, determined and a Paralympian champion, the young County Down woman has had a memorable year and is now the Belfast Telegraph Young Player of the Year for 2012.

Nominee - Sycerika McMahon

Sycerika enjoyed another tremendous year in her promising career, winning a silver medal in the 50 metres breaststroke event at the European Championships.

The young Portaferry starlet also took bronze in the same event at the European Short Course Championships and competed in the Olympics for the first time in the 100m breaststroke and 200m individual medley. The experience of London 2012 will hold her in good stead moving forward.

The teenager finished 2012 in style by claiming an amazing eight gold medals and records galore at the Irish Short Course Championships.

Nominee - Karola Bejenara

Karola is making quite a name for herself on the tennis scene becoming the Ulster Senior Open champion and Irish Under- 18 champion in 2012 – mighty impressive when you consider she is just 15 years old.

Originally from Romania and now very much part of the Windsor Tennis Club, Karola's dream is to make it on the professional circuit.

To that end the Orangefield High School pupil has already played in her first women's event in Spain and has set her sights on competing at Junior Wimbledon in the near future.

Nominee - Dominic Burns

Dominic is a young man with a head for heights and a marvellous ability to climb to success. A member of the Northern Ireland Youth Climbing Team, based at the Ozone Centre in Belfast, Dominic won the European Youth Climb Championship title in Switzerland in 2012.

When you consider that no Irish climber of any age has ever reached an international final and Dominic has reached five, it shows how well he is doing in his chosen sport.

As well as becoming European champion, he became the Junior British Bouldering champion in 2012 and represented Ireland in the World Youth Championships in Singapore, qualifying for the semi-finals.

Belfast Telegraph


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