The 26 year old from Newport, Wales, used to be ranked number one in the world in the 100m Breaststroke SB6 after winning gold at the 2006 IPC Swimming World Championships and the 2008 Paralympic Games. However, at last year's 2010 IPC Swimming World Championships in the Netherlands she lost her World title to American Mallory Weggemann in a World record time and took bronze behind teammate Charlotte Henshaw.
In Berlin at the European Championships, Johnson will be one of around 500 swimmers from 40 countries competing for medals and admits her priority is not just to stand top of the podium again. "I do not think it's gold at all costs," Johnson told www.paralympic.org, the IPC's website. "I'd be lying if I didn't say everything I do now or everything I`ve done really since Beijing has been towards London 2012. "By Berlin I will be 75% of the way through the four year plan and obviously I would love to win a gold medal and that is my target. But, if I've done everything in advance for the race I'm in for and I don't win, then so be it."
Despite going from World Championship gold in her favourite event in 2006 to bronze in 2010, Johnson says it is a sign of the ever improving strength in-depth in para-swimming. Liz Johnson said: "If you were to compare the colour of the medals from the 2006 World Championships, where I won gold, to last year where I won bronze then yes it would seem a setback but I was only 0.1 seconds off silver and the actual field was so much stronger. "Last year I was only half way through my preparations for London so the colour of the medal wasn't overly important. But obviously I was disappointed because at the end of the day I did not win the race. "It's really good for the sport though that swimming is growing all the time. If you've won a swimming medal then you must have worked very hard to win it," she added.
Johnson first took up swimming at the age of three following advice that it would help with her cerebral palsy. Aged eight she joined her first swimming club and six years later made the British team. Despite qualifying for the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games, she was reclassified just before it and did not go, a disappointment that made her even more determined to do well in future years. In 2006 she claimed three gold medals at the IPC Swimming World Championships, successfully building on the silver medal she had won at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.
At the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, she took gold in the 100m Breaststroke, a medal she dedicated to her mother who lost her battle with cancer just before the start of the Games. After years of training and sacrifices, Johnson was not just delighted at winning gold in Beijing but overjoyed that it lived up to all her expectations. "It's bigger, better and more rewarding then you can ever imagine," she explained of her golden success. "You train in the anticipation that it's going to be the best feeling in the world but it was so much more rewarding than that! "It puts into perspective all of the choices that I had to make early in life when I was still in school and couldn't go on a school trip that everyone else was going on or attend a birthday party. I guess the sacrifices I had to make were all worth it."
The eight days long 2011 IPC Swimming European Championships will be one of the last major gatherings before the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Amongst other swimmers set to compete for the 180 plus gold medals in Berlin are Ukraine's Maksym Veraska, the fastest Para-Swimmer in the world and the fastest female swimmer in the world Russia's Oxana Savchenko.The event will take place at Berlin's Europasportpark, a venue which has already hosted multiple aquatic events, including the International Open German Swimming Championships in previous years.Follow the official Championship's Facebook page at
Photo from john coxon
photos Janos Schmidt
photos Janos Schmidt