Brits off to perfect start

9 Sep 2019

The opening session of the London 2019 World Para Swimming Allianz Championships got underway this morning as the world’s best para-swimmers descended on the London Aquatics Centre for the start of the seven day meet.

Ellie Simmonds and Maisie Summers-Newton were the first British swimmers in action, both easing into the final of the Women's S6 400m Freestyle. Reigning world record holder Yelyzaveta Mereshko (UKR) set out her stall early with the fastest qualifying time of 5:23.52 while London-based Simmonds finished 3rd overall in 5:26.23. The eight-time Paralympic medallist said of her performance:

“That was a nice heat swim to feel it through and soak in the atmosphere; it felt good and I really enjoyed it. I’ll get a good swim down now, head back for some lunch, some rest and get ready for tonight.”

Making her World Championships debut Maisie Summers-Newton said of her 5th place finish:

“I was quite nervous but it felt alright.  I’m excited to race in front of a home crowd, there’s so much noise and it gives us a real sense of adrenalin.”

Alice Tai looked dominant in the heats of the Women's S8 100m Freestyle, taking the touch in 1:08.67. The World Record holder and European Champion for the event won her heat comfortably and was happy with her performance, saying:

“It’s nice to get the first race done and dusted at the Worlds. I reckon I’ve got a little bit more in there. I think I’m going into final in 2nd spot, so it will be nice to try and upgrade that 2nd place to first. Jess Long of the US is a legend and is fastest into the final. I’ll just see how it goes in front of a home crowd.”

World Championships debutante Megan Richter was also in action but just missed out on a place in the final.

The S14 200m Freestyle events for both men and women are gearing up for thrilling finals later tonight. For the men, only 0.3 seconds separated the top four heat swimmers, with Jordan Catchpole setting a new PB of 1:57.35 to lead the British charge. He said of his performance:

“I’m really happy with that, it was a good heat swim. I went in there just to make the final and to come away with a PB is amazing. I’ll now go back, rest, have some food, a sleep and come back fresh for the final.”

Tom Hamer and current World Record Holder, Reece Dunn, will also be on the medal hunt, both securing their place in the final. Talking about the event being in London, Hamer said:

“Everything has been great so far in London, its home territory, home turf. There are some great memories of this pool from London 2012 and our Coach said that the pool hasn’t been emptied so there’s still water here from 2012 and that’s pretty cool. It is also great to have the young kids from the schools come in and visit us and hopefully we’ll inspire them.”

Paralympic Champion Bethany Firth showed good form to qualify fastest in the Women’s S14 200m Freestyle final. The 23-year old from Northern Ireland won her heat in 2:08.05 and was pleased to get the first race under her belt. She said of her performance:

“I’m very happy with that. For the first race here, getting used to crowd and the pool it was a really good performance. I’m just hoping to come back tonight and go faster.”

Firth will be in good company for the final, with team-mates Jessica-Jane Applegate and Louise Fiddes also looking to improve on their heat swims. Applegate said: “I’m really happy with that heat swim. I’ve worked on my process goals so I’ll go and look back at the video analysis and see what I can work on for the final tonight.”

In the Women’s S9 100m Freestyle heats, Toni Shaw powered her way to a heat win with a personal best time of 1:03.24. While the 16 years old from Aberdeen was delighted by her performance she knew things will be tougher this evening. She said: “I’m really happy with a little PB but I know that most of the girls in those heats will be holding something back for the final. It’s not my main event but it was my first one so I just wanted to go in there and go as fast as I could and hopefully I’ll go quicker tonight.”

Shaw will be joined in the final by team-mate Stephanie Millward as well as race favourite Sophie Pascoe (NZL).

Stephen Clegg hit the lane rope during his Men's S12 100m backstroke but still secured his place in the final with a heat time of 1:02.43.

Tully Kearney and Suzanna Hext were the two fastest qualifiers for the Women's S5 50m Freestyle, with Hext, who only started her performance swimming journey in January, describing her debut performance as ‘terrifying’, she said:

“That was an amazing experience. The event is a massive environment for me to come into, especially in the London Aquatics Centre and a home crowd behind us. It was pretty terrifying to be honest. Hopefully I can build on that swim and be less nervous for the final.”

Zara Mullooly was the last Brit in action, securing her place in the Women's S10 50m Freestyle final with a season’s best time of 28.73. Aurelie Rivard (CAN) continued her dominance of the event posting 27.50, just 0.13 shy of her World Record.

Mullooly said of her performance: “I’m actually really happy with the time, it was a season’s best. There’s a lot more people here than I expected and it’s really exciting.”

Live results and the event schedule can be found here and you can catch all the action on Channel 4 here.