British teammates Liz Johnson and Charlotte Henshaw are preparing to put their friendship on hold for about 100 seconds next month as the two go head-to-head for gold at the 2011 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Swimming European Championships in Berlin, Germany.
The two, who are good friends out of the pool, are likely to line-up alongside each other in the 100m Breaststroke SB6 Final, an event which saw Johnson take Paralympic gold in 2008, and Henshaw gold at the last European Championships in 2009.
Something has to give in Berlin with only one of them able to take gold however, both are in agreement that their friendship and rivalry is beneficial.
Speaking to www.paralympic.org, the IPC’s website after Henshaw had beaten her by 0.28 seconds in the 100m Breaststroke at the BT Paralympic World Cup, Liz Johnson said: “We’ve both got the same target in Berlin as we both want to win the same race.
“Our rivalry actually works in our favour. We’re pretty professional athletes so we can be fine even when in the call room. Once the whistle goes though, Charlotte is like any other competitor. As soon as I touch the wall at the end she’s always the first to congratulate me as I am with her.”
Charlotte Hensahw added: “Breaststroke is my main event and I want to defend my title from 2009, but I’ve got a couple of other swims in Berlin which I ranked fourth at last Europeans so I want to push into medals in those if I can.
“I think it’s always nice at domestic meets to have Liz there. We always know there is going to be a quality race every time we race which I don’t think others have the opportunity to have. I know every time I race at home I’m always going to be racing one of the best in the world which is going to work in both our favours.”
In preparation for July’s Europeans the Great Britain team recently spent two weeks at a training camp in Majorca, Spain, and both swimmers have gained from the experience.
Charlotte Henshaw said: “Training as a squad before we compete at a major meet is always good. I think we put in some great work there to build us through for the next four weeks until Berlin.
Liz Johnson added: “We’ve both posted some good times in recent weeks and the training we’ve done has been really good. We’re both looking forward to it and are both on target to swim well in Berlin.”
The IPC Swimming European Championships in Berlin are set to attract 450 swimmers from 38 different countries and are one of the last major gatherings of swimmers ahead of next year’s Paralympic Games.
Both swimmers are determined to qualify for London 2012 and Johnson is delighted that more than one million people have so far signed up for tickets and believes more should do the same.
“Every four years the Paralympics become more professional and more like the Olympics. It’s no secret that the Olympic tickets are going to be in massive demand but not everyone is going to get them.
“I think if they go watch Paralympic swimming instead they are still going to get the same quality racing, same quality sport as they would at the Olympics so I would really like everyone to sign up and support us in London.”
Liz Johnson and Charlotte Henshaw are just two of the many top class swimmers set to compete at the 2011 IPC Swimming European Championships.
Other big names set for Berlin include Ukraine’s Maksym Veraksa, the fastest Para-Swimmer in the world, and Great Britain’s Paralympic and World Champion swimmer Eleanor Simmonds.