Bethany Firth has claimed Ireland’s first medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in taking gold in the women’s 100m backstroke S14 final at the Aquatics Centre.
Firth’s winning time of 1:08.93 was 1.4 seconds faster than the time she qualified with in this morning’s heat.
Australian Taylor Corry took silver in a time of 1:09.46, while Dutch swimmer Marlou van der Kulk secured bronze in 1:09.50.
Despite being one of the competitions youngest competitors at 15-years-old, Firth has enjoyed a meteoric start to her Paralympic career, winning silver in her 100m backstroke event and reaching the final of her two other events at last year’s IPC European Swimming Championships in Berlin.
Since 2009, Firth has competed in numerous able-bodied and disability competitions, with continued success.
Along with her exploits in Berlin, 2011 proved particularly rewarding, with Firth winning a multitude of medals.
At the DSE National Junior Championships in Sheffield she won seven gold medals; at the Ulster Championships she won two bronze medals; and at the UK School Games she secured a gold and two silvers.
Firth hails from Seaford, Co Down, and suffers from an intellectual disability.
Following her gold medal performance, Firth said: “The crowd were amazing, I could actually hear them under the water, they were carrying me along and pushing me along and making me go faster, I don’t think I could have done it without the crowds.
“It’s amazing, I love it, words can’t describe how I feel right now.
"I thought I came third and then I saw I was first; I was just over the moon."
Earlier this evening, Laurence McGivern finished eighth in the men’s 100m backstroke S9 final.
Participating in his first Paralympic Games, the 19-year-old from Rostrevor, Co Down, could not improve on the PB he clocked in the heats and recorded a time of 1:06.11 in the final.
The gold medal was won by Australia’s Matt Cowdrey in a time of 1:02.39.
McGivern said: “I was really excited after this morning's race, but it was really scary before the race with all those top guys focused and looking for gold. I’m still very happy with the time I did.”