“It’s a good feeling. I didn’t expect to win, I was expecting fourth or fifth. It feels amazing to swim with world class athletes so it gives me more opportunities to compete with them.”
British swimmers opened their home World Para Swimming World Series with three wins on Thursday (27 April), dominating at the Ponds Forge International Sports Centre in Sheffield.
The competition is fierce with more than 300 swimmers from over 20 countries expected to compete in the multi-class heats and finals over the four day event.
However the hosts showed their form as swimmers build towards September’s World Championships.
Full results are available online.
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games bronze medallist Hannah Russell (S12, 933 points) led the field in the women’s 100m freestyle. Teammate and fellow Rio bronze medallist from the S8, Stephanie Millward (916), was second. Worlds silver medallist Jessica Long (S8, 893) finished third for the USA.
Russell was pleased with her time of 59.77 seconds: “I’m really pleased with that race, going under the one minute mark at this time of the season, you can’t really ask for much better than that.
“It’s fantastic to have international competition on home soil and it’s the first time Para swimming has had a World Series event. Especially for me, there aren’t that many VI [visually impaired] swimmers in Great Britain so to be able to race against rivals at this point in the season is great.”
In the morning’s heats Great Britain's Thomas Hamer set an S14 European record of 53.75 in the men’s 100m freestyle. Compatriot Lewis White then went onto take the win in the final with a new S9 national record of 57.18.
Seventeen-year-old European bronze medallist White (850) said: “It feels really, really good, I wasn’t expecting that actually. I knew I was coming into the final second so I just thought ‘focus on the swim and see what happens’ and it worked out. I have been trying to get the 100 down for a while now, last time I did it was last season so it feels good, a bit of a confidence boost to get that down. I think that my season is going to go well now, so we’ll focus on the rest of the event and keep going through.
“It’s good that we have the World Series, swimmers from all over the world can come in now. It adds a bit more challenge and more drive to it – you’ve got more people to beat and more people to race. To come out on top of all of that is incredible, I’m really happy.”
Double Paralympic medal winner Muzaffar Tursunkhujaev (S13, 849) finished second, showing Uzbekistan’s continuing potential to challenge for the podium.
White’s teammate Stephen Clegg (834) completed the podium with a British S12 record of 54.08.
The competition in the intellectually impaired classification lived up to its billing in the men’s 100m breaststroke as three S14 swimmers swept the top three.
Conner Morrison (947) beat his European champion teammate Scott Quin (916) to the wall. Hong Kong’s Wa Kit Choi (891) was third.
“It feels terrific, words can’t explain,” Morrison said. “It’s a good feeling. I didn’t expect to win, I was expecting fourth or fifth. It feels amazing to swim with world class athletes so it gives me more opportunities to compete with them.”
On his personal best of 1:07.53 , Morrison commented: “I was shocked at the time, when I looked at the board I was like ‘wow’.”
Norway’s World Series points leader and world and Paralympic champion Sarah Louise Rung (SB4, 912) made up for missing out on the podium in the women’s 100m freestyle, taking the win in the 100m breaststroke instead.
“I’m a little bit disappointed with it not being faster than this morning [in the heats],” Rung said. “But it’s good training for me to do two heats and two finals. I’m pleased with the race, just not my time.
“I’ve decided to go for both events to have both as training competitions. I actually feel great in the water, I just wish I went faster than this morning!”
British 14-year-old Maisie Summers-Newton (SB6, 902) claimed second. Uzbekistan’s Paralympic champion Fotimakhan Amilova (SB13, 897) was third.
Japan’s Yuki Omukai (SB2, 62) and Denmark’s Jonas Larsen (SB2, 628) won the women’s and men’s 50m breaststroke respectively.
All heats and finals will be shown live at British Swimming's website.
Tickets are also available.
Competition runs until Sunday (30 April). Heats begin at 10:30am (CET) and finals at 6:00pm.
The World Series takes in some of the biggest Para swimming competitions around the world ahead of the 2017 World Para Swimming Championships in Mexico City, from 30 September-6 October.
Editions in Copenhagen, Denmark and Sao Paulo, Brazil have already taken place. After Sheffield, Indianapolis, USA; and Berlin, Germany, will host events in June and July respectively.