A clean sweep of qualifications in the opening session of the Madeira 2022 World Para Swimming Championships set the British team up with positive momentum at the start of the seven day meet.
Samuel Downie was the first British athlete in action, contesting the Men’s S8 400m Freestyle. Swimming from the outside lane the East Lothian man set his pacing out brilliantly on his world championships debut to clock a new personal best of 4:52.92 seconds and progress on to this evening’s final.
“It’s exciting getting to see how it all works, this is my first time racing against a lot of these swimmers so it’s exciting to see how they compare, how they race and just pick up things as I go along.” said Downie.
“I’ll swim down now and I’ll definitely be going home and getting a nap - hopefully then come back this evening and take it down even further in the final”
Tully Kearney’s campaign to retain the three world titles she claimed at London 2019 began as she went in heat two of the Women's S5 50m Freestyle. Kearney set out strongly from the gun, building a body length on those in the lanes outside her by the 25m mark and controlled the race from there to win her heat and assure one on the centre lanes for the medal contest to come.
Next up was Grace Harvey in the Women's S6 100m Backstroke. The British Swimming Performance Centre, Manchester based athlete showing she’s arrived in Portugal in great form as she lowered her lifetime best in the event to 1:28.30 seconds. Commenting on her opening swim of the meet, Harvey said:
“The 100m Back is a fun event for me so to go out there and do a PB on the first day, I’m pretty impressed with that and it’s one to look to build on in the final this evening. I’ve got my main Breaststroke event coming later in the week, so it’s really good to get some competitive racing under my belt building up to that.”
Both the Men’s and Women’s S14 200m Freestyle will see a strong contingent of British representation across the lanes as the clean sweep of heats qualification continued. In the men’s event Jordan Catchpole led out the pace over the first length before dropping back to claim the last qualification spot just behind Reece Dunn, with Thomas Hamer finishing strongest to progress as the fifth seed.
Meanwhile Bethany Firth and Jessica-Jane Applegate took commanding control of their respective heats to set up yet another fantastic head to head between the pair on the world stage. Louise Fiddes joins them in the final where from lane seven she more than has the potential to get in the mix of the podium places on the opening night having placed fourth in Tokyo less than a year ago.
Closing out the opening heats session, two further British athletes got their competition programme underway with a one length sprint of the pool. Scarlett Humphrey progressing in sixth from the Women's S11 50m Freestyle heats on her senior international debut, whilst London 2019 silver medallist Zara Mullooly will look to make an impact from an outside lane in the Women's S10 50m Freestyle final after progressing as the seventh seed.
(Article images courtesy of World Para Swimming)