Montreal gave injury-hit Firth a triple silver lining
Swimmer named Irish Times Sportswoman of the month for August
It was in August of last year that we saluted Bethany Firth for her gold-winning performance at the Paralympics in London. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
It was in August of last year that we saluted Bethany Firth for her gold-winning performance at the Paralympics in London, the then 16-year-old from Seaforde, Co Down, who’d only taken up swimming three years before, holding off Australia’s Taylor Corry and the Netherlands’ Marlou van der Kulk to triumph in the 100m backstroke.
So, need it be said, she was added to our 2012 roll of award-winning honour. And she produced her magical moment despite suffering from a shoulder injury, one that persisted in to 2013, forcing her to take a break after London and restrict her training programme.
Still, her coach Nelson Lindsay was hopeful enough that she could have a fruitful year, and come the Paralympic World Championships in Montreal fruitful was the only word.
Despite not being able to prepare as she would have wished, Firth won three silver medals at the Championships, completing her haul with a personal best in the final of the 100 metres backstroke.
By then, she had finished runner-up in both the 200m freestyle and the 100m breaststroke, supposedly her weakest event in the Championships.
“I don’t normally like swimming breaststroke, but I’m so pleased,” she said. “Before I went into the race Jim (National Paralympic Swim Coach Jim Laverty) told me just to enjoy it - and I really did enjoy it”.
She did too.
Yet more reward, then, for the teenager – and for her parents Peter and Lyndsey, whose dedication to their daughter’s talents involves driving her for training to the nearest pool in Newtownards at 4.30 most mornings.
As we said a year ago: “Two and a half hours in the pool, another 30 minutes training on dry land in the morning, and then another session in the evening.”
That’s what it takes. Bethany Firth is our sportswoman of the month for August.
Previous monthly winners
December: Fionnuala Britton (Athletics). Became the first woman to retain her European Cross Country title when she triumphed of Budapest, also helping Ireland win team gold .
January: Michelle Fahy (Basketball). Named the MVP in the Superleague National Cup final, helping her University of Limerick’s Huskies team to victory over Team Montenotte.
February: Fiona Coghlan (Rugby). Captained the Irish rugby team to thir first ever Grand Slam.
March: Aisling Blake (Squash). Won her first ever national title and then, with Perry and Laura Mylotte, helping Ireland to silver at the European Championships for the second year running.
April: Jane Mangan (Horse Racing). The 19-year-old jockey won her first Grade One race at Punchestown.
May: Annalise Murphy (Sailing). Won gold at the first round of the sailing World Cup in Lake Garda, winning again in round two in the Netherlands.
June: Nikki Symmons (Hockey). Made her 200th senior appearance for her country against Canada in Dublin, 12 years after making her debut.
July: Kelly Proper (Athletics). Excelled at the National Championships when she triumphed in the long jump, the 100 and 200 metres, and anchored Ferrybank to victory in the 4 x 100 metre relay.