Danielle Hill wins backstroke gold at European Championships

Belfast-born swimmer wins Ireland’s first European long course gold since Michelle Smith in 1997

Ireland's Danielle Hill celebrates her victory. Photograph: Andrej Isakovic/AFP via Getty Images

Danielle Hill has won the gold medal in the 50m backstroke at the European Aquatics Championships in Belgrade.

Coming home in a time of 27.73 seconds, Belfast-born Hill beat Theodara Drakou of Greece and Lora Piskorska of Poland who took silver and bronze respectively.

By winning the medal, Hill has secured Ireland’s first European long course gold since Michelle Smith won two races in 1997, bringing to an end a 27-year gap.

“That was goosebumps right there, I think it will take a while to sink but with five weeks out from Paris it is a really nice confidence boost for me,” said Hill. “It was about ironing out anything that needed to be finalised ahead of Paris, it’s pretty nice.

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“I’ve a full team at home who I know are a little bit late going into the session because they were all sitting watching me. Everything that Team Larne has created these past years hasn’t been one or two years, it’s been 12 years of hard work to get to this point. Peter [Larne Head Coach] can’t be here but it’s all down to his hard work, he is the man behind all this.

“The nerves are still there. I don’t really believe what I’ve done but I’ve a 100m backstroke tomorrow, so unfortunately I’ve got to pack this and see what we can do tomorrow morning.”

Hill will race in her second Olympics later this summer when she competes in the 100m and 50m backstroke. She previously lowered her own 100m Irish record last month at the Irish Open in Dublin.

That was goosebumps right there, I think it will take a while to sink but with five weeks out from Paris it is a really nice confidence boost for me. It was about ironing out anything that needed to be finalised ahead of Paris, it’s pretty nice.”

Hill added: “I’ve a full team at home who I know are a little bit late going into the session because they were all sitting watching me. Everything that Team Larne has created these past years hasn’t been one or two years, it’s been 12 years of hard work to get to this point. Peter (Larne Head Coach) can’t be here but it’s all down to his hard work, he is the man behind all this.”

On inspiring younger generations, she added: “I’m so proud, it’s probably the main reason I’m involved in swimming. Money, medals, whatever it is nice, if I can inspire a little kid, male or female, then that will be my job done in this sport.”

“The nerves are still there, I don’t really believe what I’ve done but I’ve a 100m Backstroke tomorrow, so unfortunately, I’ve got to pack this and see what we can do tomorrow morning.”