Great Britain’s Paralympians served up epic performances from start to finish in the first leg of the 2022 Para Swimming World Series in Aberdeen, which finished on Sunday (20 February).
The bar was set high by Ellie Challis and Stephen Clegg who bookended the four-day meet with sensational swims.
There was also plenty of action in between by the host nation’s team, which was competing for the first time in an international competition since the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games last summer.
SHOCKING RESULTS FOR CHALLIS
Challis laid down her marker from the very first heat with a British record in the women’s 100m freestyle S3. The 17-year-old shaved three seconds off her personal best to finish in 1:49.52. The time qualified her for the World Para Swimming Championships in Madeira this year.
On the final day of competition, she topped it off with another British record in the women’s 50m freestyle S3 in 51.91. Two days before she had claimed gold in the women’s multi-class 50m breaststroke in 1:16.44.
The world record holder in the event, later repeated the silver medal she won in Tokyo in the women’s 50m backstroke at the Aberdeen Sports Village.
“I’m so shocked with result of the 100m free, especially in the heat,” said Challis, who was the youngest athlete in the British team at the Paralympic Games.
“I’m definitely pleased with it all, and not just with the British records. It’s still only February and we’ve got the Worlds in June.”
Clegg also had a standout swim in the final race of the competition in the men’s 100m butterfly. The S12 swimmer came agonisingly close – 0.05 seconds - to breaking the world record he set in the same race at the end of last year’s World Series in Sheffield. On Sunday he fought off a challenge from Iceland’s Robert Jonsson to land in 56.80.
It was a double-first for Clegg, who also secured victory in the men’s 100m backstroke final in 1:01.76.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” he said. “To still do swims like that after Tokyo, with only a reasonable amount of training, I’m really pleased. It’s a really good base mark for the next two-and-a-half years.”
RECORDS FOR SCHOLZ
The competition was an opportunity for athletes to post qualifying times for this year’s World Championships and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. There were 97 athletes competing from 13 countries with 54 from the host nation.
The German athletes had a dream start to their 2022 season. Tanja Scholz smashed the S4 world record and claimed gold in the women’s 100m freestyle in 1:25.10 to earn 1011 points. She also secured a second victory and an S4 European record in the women’s 50m freestyle in 38.46.
Her teammate Gina Boettcher (S4), who is a six-time European Championships medallist, also took home two golds in the women’s 50m backstroke in 53.12 and the 150m individual medley in 3:08.27. Justin Kaps (S10) sealed another win for Germany in the men’s 50m freestyle in 26.09.
Great Britain’s double Paralympic champion Maisie Summers-Newton was back to Tokyo form with golds in the same races in Aberdeen. The S6 swimmer dropped an impressive sub three-minute swim in the women’s 200m individual medley. The world record holder in the event finished in 2:59.75.
“Being at the first World Series of the year I wanted to do quite well, so to go sub three minutes I was so happy. I think it shows I’m in a really good place at the moment,” said Summers-Newton, who was also the class of the field in the women’s 100m breaststroke, which she won in 1:34.70.
BATTLE IN THE POOL
In the men’s S4 class a battle played out between her teammate Lyndon Longhorne and Spain’s Javier Torres.
In the 150m individual medley, Longhorne - who set five new British records in 2021 – landed just half a second ahead of 47-year-old Torres in 2:54.80.
The same result played out in the 50m breaststroke, which Longhorne narrowly won in 58.01. He later went on to claim two British records in the men’s 200m freestyle S4 in 3:22.15 and in the 50m freestyle S4 in 43.76.
But the tables turned in the men’s 50m backstroke when Torres, who has amassed 16 Paralympic medals over his 30-year career, landed three seconds ahead of his 27-year-old rival in 48.06. He went on to win the men’s 50m butterfly in 50.19.
Torres’ compatriot Inigo Llopis Sanz also came out top in the men’s 400m freestyle in 4:40.69.
Athletes travelled from as far as Belgium, Brazil, Cyprus, Ireland, Russia, Switzerland, and Ukraine.
Canada was the second biggest team behind Great Britain, with 12 athletes, at the event. Paralympic champion Danielle Dorris bagged a gold medal on her first trip to British waters in the women’s 50m butterfly S7 in 33.79.
Iceland’s Robert Isak Jonsson (S14) set a blistering pace in the men’s 200m individual medley to secure the top spot in 2:16.91.
A rising star of the Irish team Roisin Ni Riain (S13) shared gold with Great Britain’s double Paralympic champion, Hannah Russell (S12) in the women’s 100m backstroke. They tied in first place on equal 854 points after they hit the wall in the multi-class race in 1:08.13 and 1:09.62, respectively.
Russell, who also won silver in the 50m freestyle and 100m backstroke in Aberdeen, said: “With the backstroke and the freestyle, I’ve managed to get under the World Championships qualifying times for those events, so that’s two in the bag, which is really promising.”
MORE GOLD FOR HOSTS
There were more wins for the host nation with Paralympic champion Jordan Catchpole (S14) claiming two. The first was in the men’s 100m freestyle, which he won in 53.92 and later in the men’s 200m freestyle in 2:00.31.
Paralympic medallist Scott Quin (S14) secured victory in the men’s 100m breaststroke in 1:06.04. His teammate Connor Morrison, who trains in Aberdeen, took home silver.
Another local swimmer, Toni Shaw, was in outstanding form in the women’s 400m freestyle. The former European champion finished in 4:44.35. Paralympic champion Bethany Firth also hit the wall first in the women’s 200m freestyle in 2:09.63.
And in the last women’s race of the competition, the 100m butterfly, Poppy Maskill (S9) claimed gold in 1:09.45.
“I’m really happy with that,” she said. “Racing against athletes from around the world has been really cool this week.”
Aberdeen 2022 was organised by British Swimming. Complete results can be found here.
There are five stops in the World Series 2022. The second leg in Melbourne started on Friday (18 February) and also finished on Sunday (20 February).
The next stop will be in Lignano Sabbiadoro, in Italy, from 11 to 13 March, followed by Berlin, Germany, from 31 March to 3 April, and ends in Indianapolis, USA, from 7 to 9 April.
The World Para Swimming Points System is used at the World Series competitions to calculate athletes’ results. At the end of the season the top female and male swimmers are declared season winners.
*World records are subject to ratification by World Para Swimming.