Bethany Firth (16) celebrates win


Ireland’s first medallist of the Paralympic Games was cheered into the Irish team lodge this afternoon.

Bethany Firth (16) from Seaforde, Co Down, won gold in the S14 100m backstroke last night for swimmers with an intellectual disability.

Her portrait has been put on the wall of the Irish team lodge which is in Stratford High Street near the stadium and it is hoped that several more will join her.

Bethany said she did not know she had won until she touched the wall at the end of the race. She celebrated afterwards with a roast dinner and then went straight to bed as she is competing tomorrow.

Her proud parents Peter and Lindsey said her success made the sacrifices worthwhile. Bethany starts in the early morning with a 40 kilometre drive to the swimming pool in Newtownards at 4.30am for a two hour training session and ends at 8pm at night.

Lindsey said she received 110 texts in the immediate aftermath of her daughter’s win with many complementing Bethany on her nails which were in the Irish colours.

Bethany’s ambition is to compete in Rio, both in the Olympics and Paralympics.

“I really want to get there. I think with the work that I’m putting in I will," she said.

Since before the games started, today was dubbed a potential “Super Saturday” for the Irish athletes with three of Ireland’s strongest prospect all in action this evening.

Jason Smyth underlined his class by blitzing the field and lowering the world Paralympic record for his T13 (slight visual impairment) category in the heats last night in a time of 10.54.

Sources within the Irish camp say he will attempt to beat his personal best of 10.22 tonight after a season in which he was agonisingly close to qualifying for the Olympic Games.

His attempt may depend on weather conditions inside the stadium. At present it is warm and muggy with little breeze. Smyth is in action at 7.15pm and his race will be live on both Channel 4 and Setanta.

Following on from him Mike McKillip will go in the T37 (for athletes with cerebral palsy) 800 metres at 8.58pm. He is the defending champion from Beijing.

One of Ireland’s strongest prospects in the pool, Darragh McDonald, is going in the S6 400 metre freestyle final at 5.44pm having knocked just under two-and-a-half seconds off his previous best to go into this afternoon's final as the fastest qualifier ahead of world record holder Anders Olsson, who took gold four years ago.

James Scully is swimming in the S5 category in the 200 metres freestyle at 6.51pm this evening. He was sixth fastest swimmer in the heats this morning.

Some 28 members of his family have travelled over for the event and they are wearing“Go Scully Go” t-shirts.