Iona Winnifrith [Madeira 2024 - SM7 200m IM Gold]

Winnifrith and Ellard win gold on opening night of European action

21 Apr 2024

Iona Winnifrith delivered a British record swim in the Women’s SM7 200m Individual Medley to begin her debut European Championships with gold, while William Ellard was victorious in the Men’s S14 200m Freestyle in Madeira.

[Images courtresy of World Para Swimming]

Winnifrith and Ellard’s golds headlined Britain’s opening night at the Madeira 2024 Para Swimming European Open Championships, with a silver from Olivia Newman-Baronius in the Women’s S14 200m Freestyle further adding to the medal count.

Entering her first foray at an international championships, 13 year-old Winnifrith executed a mature medley performance that saw her race through to the lead on the breaststroke leg and set up an exciting closing length battle against Ukraine’s Veronika Korzhova.

Turning second at the 100m mark, Winnifrith quickly started to claw in the 8.5 second deficit Korzhova had placed on the entire field - utilising her breaststroke strength to give herself an advantage of just over two seconds on the Ukrainian in the homebound freestyle contest.

Coming under the flags the pair were side by side, and Winnifrith responded with a final strong kick into the touch to take the Women’s SM7 200m Individual Medley gold in a new British record of 3:09.76.

“I wasn’t expecting to be European champion in this event - my main event is the Breaststroke on Tuesday and I’d love to do well in that.” said Winnifrith,

“I knew she was on my tail so I was just like ‘hammer it’, I just wanted to put the pressure on and see if I could overcome her. I fought for it, powered that last 50m and I’m really happy with the result.”

Earlier in the session Ellard was the first British athlete to hear the national anthem ring out as he stood atop the Men’s S14 200m Freestyle podium.

In what was a direct final encounter, the Nick Thompson-coached swimmer led from the starter’s gun to go close to the in world record levelling pace he delivered London.

Summers-Newton and Ellard [Madeira 2024 - Opening Ceremony]
Maisie Summers-Newton and Will Ellard at the opening ceremony

Measuring up how he felt after his first swim of the week, Ellard commented:

“Yeah I’m feeling really good. I haven’t tapered at all or rested for this meet because we only had British champs two weeks ago and that’s when I did my best times - so to be just two tenth off that is really good and I think if we had a heat in the morning I could have got that to be fair.

“[My goal] is just to get on the podium for each one, so that’s the start of it, I’ve got 100m Back tomorrow and hopefully it’ll be a good week.”

In the respective women’s event, Olivia Newman-Baronius claimed a debut European silver medal to start her week in Madeira.

Racing closely throughout the 200m encounter, a strong closing length from Newman-Baronius applied the pressure on the reigning the S14 Paralympic champion, Shabalina (NPA), to see her touch just three tenths off the gold. 

“Yeah it was a good start to the competition, my first ever Europeans so I’m really happy with it. I’m just trying to be on my times coming of the back of racing a couple weeks ago in London.” said Newman-Baronius.

Elsewhere on the first evening of the championships, Lily Rice opened the British action in the pool - finishing just shy of the Women’s S8 400m Freestyle podium in fourth. Meanwhile Callie-Ann Warrington (S10) and Eliza Humphrey (S11) qualified from their morning heats in the Women’s 50m Freestyle and placed sixth and eighth in their respective para-swimming classification finals.

Live streaming is available on the Paralympic Games YouTube, with further event details and results on the World Para Swimming Website.