The British Gas Disability Swimming team that are competing at the IPC Swimming European Championships in Reykjavik enjoyed success on day one of competition as they won four gold, four silver and three bronze medals.
Double Paralympic Champion Eleanor Simmonds dominated the final of the women’s S6 400m Freestyle as she won her first European title.
Simmonds lay down a marker to the rest of the field in this morning’s heats as she took charge her heat after putting in a good performance. Paralympic medallists Natalie Jones and Nyree Lewis also secured their places in the final after swimming strongly in their heats.
In the final, Simmonds went out quickly and she looked strong throughout the race but found Jones on her shoulder for the first 50m. Simmonds got into her rhythm and took out the lead over her team-mate.
At the 100m mark, Simmonds and Jones lay in one and two and Lewis lay in fourth place behind Sarah Louise Rung (Norway).
Simmonds touched home in a time of 5:37.31 to win the gold medal and secure her first European title.
“I am really happy to have the title and the gold medal,” Simmonds said. “But I did want to go faster in my final because I felt really good in my heat this morning.
“I did know I was in the lead but I race better when I have someone pushing me along but it was good to win the race by that much.”
Jones continued to show her strength and finished in a new personal best time of 5:54.77 to win the silver medal. The battle for bronze was won by Rung in a time of 5:55.54 and Lewis finished in fourth in 6:06.75.
Jones commented: “That was a seven second personal best for me which is just great. The first 100m I was feeling it and I had pins and needles but I just told myself to push on and get through it. I am really pleased with the silver, I am so happy.”
Stephanie Millward put in a commanding performance in the final of the women’s S9 100m Butterfly as she swam close to her European record to win the gold medal.
Millward swam an excellent first 50m and turned ahead of the field. Her team-mates Claire Cashmore and Elizabeth Simpkin also swam well through the first 50m but Spain’s Sarai Gascon Moreno lay in second place as the race entered the final length.
Millward secured the gold medal with a time of 1:10.78 just 0.17 seconds outside of her personal best.
“It was a good swim but a really tough race for me physically,” Millward said. “I went into the race worrying about the other competitors and when you let those doubts in you know it won’t necessarily go to plan.
“But it was good although it would have been nice to have broken my European record but maybe another day. I am ecstatic to be champion.”
Cashmore turned in third place but found the speed too much and dropped through the field to fifth as she touched in 1:15.35. Simpkin swam an impressive final 50m as she moved up to third place and as she stopped the clock on 1:13.58 to win the bronze medal.
“I felt really good in the final,” Simpkin said. “My heat was really bad and I was really disappointed with my performance but I went back to the hotel and picked myself up ready for the final.
“My third 25m in my heat was my worst and so I went into the final knowing that I had to improve it. So I hit that third 25m and went quicker and held it for the fourth. I really believed in myself for that final and that really helped me.”
Eleni Papadopoulos, who is competing in her first major international competition, put in an impressive performance in the final of the women’s S10 100m Butterfly to win the silver medal.
Papadopoulos moved into second place after the first 25m and knew she just had to keep her pace up to ensure her place on the podium.
The British Gas swimmer worked hard over the final 50m and secured her silver medal in a time of 1:13.82.
Papadopoulos said after her race: “I am really chuffed with myself. I had a really good time in the race and I have been feeling really strong over the past few days. I have three more races to come this week and I am feeling really good for them.
“I am so motivated at the moment and I am really pleased to have come to my first major international and won a medal.”
The gold medal was won by Elodie Lorandi (France) in a time of 1:10.89 and the bronze medal went to Anna Omielan (Poland) in 1:16.43. .
To sum up the first day of competition Head Coach Lars Humer said: “That has been a good day for us. Medal-wise we got as many as we would have expected because of the rankings. But more importantly we were seeing a lot of personal bests and season bests and it is great to have a first day like this.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS