Applegate's fruitful week continues to cap medal hat-trick

21 May 2021

Britain enjoyed a night of hat-tricks at the World Para Swimming European Open Championships as Jessica-Jane Applegate led the way again with a brilliant performance. 

Applegate's victory in the Women's S14 100m Freestyle secured her third European title of the week, while also acting as the second of three medal wins on the night, in between bronze-medal swims from Tom Hamer (Men's S14 100m Freestyle) and Stephanie Millward (Women's S9 100m Backstroke). 

With her event going straight to the final, it meant City of Norwich competitor Applegate had to hit the water running in the evening. But given her eye-catching displays so far in Madeira, that was never likely to slow her down - and she took control to lead throughout the two laps and surge clear to touch first.

"It was really hard not having a heats swim this morning, because I learn a lot when I do a heat, so I tried doing something different before the finals," Applegate explained afterwards.

"I tried doing two warm-ups, so it was about trying new things today. The time was okay for where I am, but I wanted to be under the minute - I'm always tough on myself. 

"I hope I can do it [the clean sweep of golds] but it's going to be a lot more painful than that one as it's butterfly. For where I am, with not much training, I'm really pleased with how I'm doing and how I've coped with the situation. 

"This is my first competition in a long time, so I'm really pleased, but I'm also really excited to go home and start training really hard." 

While Applegate added to her ever-growing tally in Madeira, the Women's S9 100m Backstroke served up a first medal of the week for Millward.

The three-time Paralympian was part of a nip-and-tuck tussle with Sweden's Lina Watz and Zsofia Konkoly of Hungary, as Spain's Nuria Marques Soto pulled clear for the gold.

Tom Hamer European Champs 2021 walk out
Tom Hamer added S14 100m Freestyle bronze to his 200m Freestyle silver

Millward held on well to ensure she would be on the podium, touching narrowly behind Watz but crucially finishing well for the bronze. 

"It always feels absolutely fantastic to bring home any medal, it doesn't matter what colour," she said. 

"Even if you come fourth, fifth or sixth, you've done your absolute best, so any medal is incredible. I feel so privileged to be a part of this, and I just hope that everyone else tries their hardest and achieves what they can." 

The first British medal of the night came courtesy of Tom Hamer. The freestyle specialist - who trains under Graeme Smith and Jonathan Fox at the National Performance Centre - had already claimed silver over the 200m distance on day one, before returning here to take bronze in the Men's S14 100m Freestyle.

After qualifying fastest through the heats, Hamer found himself with some catching up to do at the turn in the final. He did just that, with good pace down the home straight ensuring a fourth-place finish overall and European bronze. 

"I'm really happy with a second medal, getting a bronze after the silver. I haven't come here for the medals, I've come here for the process of the race and I'm just glad I went that bit faster from heat to final," said Tom. 

"I was ecstatic this morning, to be going that time now. As a team, we've had such a small team of eight athletes and a few members of staff here. That's been great - I felt I've had that one-to-one connection with the staff and athletes."

That precious bonding time has also been valued by young Will Perry, who is making his senior international debut on a British team. 

The Northampton Swimming Club man made his second final in as many days on Friday, qualifying for the Men's SB6 100m Breaststroke showpiece. He ultimately placed fifth with a strong display.

"I haven't trained breaststroke in a while, so it's very nice to finish fifth and very close to my lifetime best. I'm still a bit overwhelmed, but to be fifth in a final is just brilliant.

"All but one of my teammates here are Paralympians. I'm learning so much from them, it's amazing being here with them, learning new things each day, making new friends. It's an honour to be here. Hopefully it's a step to a solid future with this team."

One of those Paralympians is Michael Jones, who turned to the shortest distance on day six in the Men's S7 50m Freestyle. He qualified seventh fastest for the evening final, and that was the position he finished. 

"I'm happy with that. It's not an event I've necessarily been training for, my focus has been on longer distance, so I'm happy with how I performed today. The time was very similar to the morning, so I'll take that," said Jones.