Firth gold for Irish in London

Cormac Byrne

BETHANY Firth delivered Ireland's first medal of the 2012 Paralympics and it was a glorious gold.

The Co Down teenager won the 100m backstroke S14 event. Australia's Taylor Corry took silver, with the Netherlands' Marlou van der Kulk in the bronze position.

"Words can't describe it, it's amazing the atmosphere, it is so good," she said. "The crowd were amazing, I could actually hear them under the water.

"They were carrying me along and pushing me along and making me go faster, I don't think I could have done it without the crowds.

"I went in there hoping to get a bronze maybe, coming first is such a shock. I said a prayer before I went in and it really helped there.

"I'm over the moon, it was amazing."

Firth's winning time of 1:08.93 was 1.4 seconds faster than the time she qualified with in the morning heat.

"You save it all for the end so this is great. I didn't see it coming, but the 200 (metres) is coming up," she added.


Despite being one of the competition's youngest competitors at 15 years old, Firth has enjoyed a meteoric start to her Paralympic career, winning silver in her 100m backstroke event and reaching the final of her two other events at last year's IPC European Swimming Championships in Berlin.

Since 2009, Firth has competed in numerous able-bodied and disability competitions, with continued success.

She struggled with shoulder injuries earlier this year but looked impressive when clocking a time of 1:10:33 to finish second fastest in heat two.

Firth will also compete in the 100m breaststroke and 200m freestyle events. The schoolgirl claimed silver in the 200m freestyle at the European Championships last year.

Elsewhere, reigning Paralympic champion Jason Smyth set a new world record of 10.54 seconds in heat one of the 100m T13 last night.

Elsewhere, Colin Lynch lost out on a bronze medal by .02 of a second in the individual pursuit C2 bronze medal ride-off. Lynch had led the race up until the final moment only to lose out to the 2008 Paralympics champion -- France's Laurent Thirionet.