Toni's a Shaw thing on big night of freestyle

19 Feb 2022

Toni Shaw made home comforts count to claim a brilliant Women's MC 400m Freestyle gold on another fast day of racing at the Para Swimming World Series inc. British Para-Swimming Meet in Aberdeen. 

Back at the pool at which she has spent the majority of her career training, Shaw put down a brilliant show of pacing to claim the World Series title in a final that always looked set to go down to the wire. 

The 18-year-old - who is now coached at the University of Stirling - measured her swim perfectly, the S9 athlete holding a steady stroke rate alongside S13 Roisin Ni Riain before a surge through the last 50m. 

That saw her touch in 4:44.35, inside her classification's set World Championship qualifying time - in the event that brought her Paralympic bronze at Tokyo 2020 - and earning her 798 points, enough for the gold ahead of Maisie Summers-Newton, whose brilliant meet continued with silver here on 777 points. Ni Riain of Republic of Ireland rounded out the podium places with 765. 

Speaking on the victory and the return to this pool, Shaw said: "I'm quite happy with that swim. I've actually been training more for the 100m Freestyle (which brought her World Series silver on Thursday) for the Commonwealth Games and the 200m Individual Medley as well. I was quite nervous beforehand thinking ‘I’ve not done enough to do this’ but I kind of just dived in and it felt okay, so I'm really happy with it.

"I trained literally for a whole year for this event (the 400m Freestyle) so I think it’s quite nice to have a different focus for a bit but obviously still race it. I think I’ll get back to training for it more next year and hopefully I’ll be able to go quicker.

Toni Shaw 400m Free breath BPSM 2022.jpg
Toni Shaw

"I really like Stirling. There’s more responsibility on doing everything for myself. I was kind of expecting a bit of a drop, and that did happen, I didn’t race as fast for a while, but to be back here racing close to my PB gives me confidence in what I’m doing. I love training there and being happy definitely helps you swim faster.

"Here in Aberdeen, it's a great pool, being back here at what I still consider my home pool is so special. I’ve seen Conner (Morrison) who I used to train with every day and catch up with Gregor and to be home for a few days, it feels special."

The Women's 200m Freestyle was a similarly tight affair, as the morning's heats had suggested. That contest was narrowly won by City of Norwich's two-time Paralympic champion Jessica-Jane Applegate - but fellow S14 athlete Bethany Firth got the better of a nip-and-tuck final, dipping inside the World Championship selection mark by clocking a 2:09.63 to claim the World Series title.

Firth - who has Paralympic gold and silver in this event - earned 835 points with her time, while Applegate's stunning finish down the final 25m was not quite enough to overhaul that tally, as she earned 824 points. The podium was completed by another S14 British Paralympic medallist, Louise Fiddes's time earning her 781 and the bronze.

For Firth, this meet in Aberdeen has been a highly encouraging one as she builds up her return from a foot injury and a return to post-Tokyo competition. 

"I always love swimming the World Series finals, especially against the GB girls, because we always push each other on," said the swimmer who is coached by Nelson Lindsay.

"It's really tough sometimes when you're training by yourself, so to come together and race against these girls really gives you a bit of motivation for when you go home and train again. 

Bethany Firth BPSM 2022.jpg
Bethany Firth

"It wouldn't be Bethany Firth if I didn't have an injury! It's been quite challenging and painful, but we've got through the meet and I'm really happy about that - it just goes to show how great the support around me is, the British Para-Swimming physio and my physios at home, just to allow me to come here and race, because I haven't raced since Tokyo."

In the men's event, Jordan Catchpole (S14 - Team Waveney) completed the 100m and 200m Freestyle double, following on from his opening-day win in the shorter event. This time around, the Tokyo Paralympic gold medallist showed his pacing ability over 200m, dropping close to three seconds from his heat swim to take the gold on 815 points, ahead of City of Glasgow man Louis Lawlor, who also finished strongly to edge past George Kelman-Johns (Gloucester-City) for silver on 785. Kelman-Johns took 766 points for bronze to complete an all S14 podium. 

Earlier in the day, the busy Lyndon Longhorne had smashed his own British record by nearly three seconds in the 200m Freestyle. The Derwentside ASC man had set his previous mark at his debut Paralympic Games last summer, but despite his packed schedule here in Aberdeen, Longhorne powered to a 3:22.15. So how does Lyndon assess his meet so far?

"I feel good - it's been going really well, all my times are just off what I went at the Games, which is really good. I couldn't be happier, especially the 200m Freestyle this morning, which was three seconds faster than the Games - I can't complain with that!" he said.

"I feel fit in the water, I feel strong, considering it was race number 10 tonight! This morning felt good, I felt a bit tired tonight but it's still a really good meet overall." 

Mikey Jones was "really pleased" with his bronze in the Men's 400m Freestyle finale, as the S7 man showed his distance abilities ahead of his sprint freestyle focus on Sunday. 

Jones is concentrating on a Commonwealth Games opportunity in the shortest freestyle category - but his pacing was spot on over eight lengths, with his time earning him 764 points, just shy of Germany's Justin Kaps (S10 - 767) in silver and winner Inigo Llopis Sanz (S8 - 792) of Spain. 

Mikey Jones 400m Free BPSM 2022.jpg
Mikey Jones claimed World Series bronze in the Men's 400m Freestyle

"I'm really pleased. It's not been my focus this year, my focus has been sprints for the 50m at the Commonwealth Games, so going into it, it was a bit of an unknown," he said.

"This morning, it was learning how to re-swim it, since I last did it in June last year. I'm pleased with that, I'm happy with the result and I'll take that! Now I'll go away, swim down and the recovery strategy has to be on point because it's quite a fast turnaround between this event and the 50m heats."

The finals session began with the Men's and Women's 50m Butterfly events - and the women's contest saw Ellie Challis complete a medal hat-trick for the competition as she picked up bronze. 

The National Performance Centre swimmer pushed right to the wall in this multi-classification contest, the S3 athlete clocking a time worth 689 points to add to her 50m Breaststroke gold and silver in the 50m Backstroke. This one saw her behind Canada's Danielle Dorris (S7), who flew clear to win gold with 930 points, ahead of Ireland's Nicole Turner (S6), who earned 711 points. 

Spain's Javier Torres took gold in the men's event, with Sebastian Williams of Mount Kelly getting the better of fellow S6 swimmer Bruce Dee from Northampton Swimming Club in the British final. 

Among the junior standouts from this finals session were Sam Downie (East Lothian Swim Team) and Meghan Willis (Torfaen Dolphins), who swam well in their respective 400m Freestyle finals.

For all the results from Saturday's action, and to watch the livestream videos back, visit our full #Aberdeen2022 lowdown page here.