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Golden start for British swimmers in London

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30th August 2012

Jonathan Fox became Great Britain’s first aquatics gold medallist of London 2012 as he stormed home in the S7 100m Backstroke on the opening day of the Paralympic Games.

Having set a world record 1:09.86 to qualify fastest for the final, the Brit took the final by the scruff of the neck, shooting out of the blocks to turn in 32.95 – just 0.09 shy of his S7 50m Backstroke world record.

That’s what the final is all about – trying to get that gold medal around your neck and that’s what I’ve done so I’m really happy.

Ukraine’s S6 European champion Yevheniy Bohodayko, re-classified just days before the Games, came back strongly and put pressure on the Brit in the final 25m.

But having come so close four years ago, Fox wasn’t to be denied a second time and touched for victory in 1:10.46 ahead of Bohodayko (1:11.31) and Croatia’s Mihovil Spanja (1:12.53).

And Fox admitted he had dug deep to hold on to his lead an claim the first Paralympic title of his career.

“It’s just an amazing feeling,” said Fox. “When you touch the wall and the crowd roars it’s so good.

“It was another good time. I thought I might pip the world record again but I’m so happy to get the gold.

“That’s what the final is all about – trying to get that gold medal around your neck and that’s what I’ve done so I’m really happy.

“You always have it in the back of your mind, being able to see that guy coming back at you.

“You’re dying inside and you just want to finish it but I stuck to it and got there first.”

Competing in her fourth Paralympics, Nyree Kindred struck silver in the S6 100m Backstroke to collect the tenth Paralympic medal of her career.

Tonight I was aiming to go as hard as I can and I can’t ask for more than that.

The world champion missed a year of swimming in 2011 to have a child with husband and fellow British Paralympic swimmer Sascha Kindred.

But having qualified fastest from the heats with a Paralympic record 1:27.96, Kindred knew she was back to her best and clocked a British record 1:26.23 to equal her result from 2000 and 2008.

China’s Lu Dong won gold in a world record 1:24.71 but Kindred held off defending champion Mirjam de Koning-Peper who took bronze in 1:29.04.

“I knew tonight was going to be tough and I knew Dong was going to be fast and right up there,” said Kindred.

“I don’t have a strong kick off the wall so I expect to be down on the first 50m but I’ve got a very good second 50m and I proved that by coming back tonight.

“I can’t complain about a personal best a year after having a baby.

“I’ve equalled what I did in Beijing. Tonight I was aiming to go as hard as I can and I can’t ask for more than that.”

Teenager Hannah Russell won S12 400m Freestyle silver with a British record in the first of five events on her Paralympic debut.

It’s a dream come true. I’ve come here to try my best so to come away with a medal is a bonus and a cherry on top.

The prodigious 16-year old finished fourth in this event at last year’s European Championships but underlined her potential by breaking the short course world record earlier in 2012.

And having already sliced 3.5 seconds from her British record to qualify fastest from the heats, Russell knocked another three off in the final as she touched in 4:38.60 behind Russia’s champion Oxana Savchenko (4:37.89).

And despite missing out on gold by less than a second in a nail-biting dash for the wall, Russell insisted her expectations coming in to the meet had been modest.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Russell. “I’ve come here to try my best so to come away with a medal is a bonus and a cherry on top. I can’t believe it.

“I just want to try my hardest in every event here. I’ve put all the training in so hopefully I can do a PB and get into another final.

“I could hear the crowd coming home on that last length so I just kicked as hard as I could and kept my head down to the finish.”

Sean Fraser improved his ranking to finish sixth in his first final of London 2012 in the S8 100m Butterfly.

Having qualified seventh fastest in a season’s best 1:05.94, the Scottish swimmer kept a similar pace in the final, touching in 1:05.99.

“That was a good time, similar to this morning and just outside my personal best,” said Fraser.

“I was disappointed to get so close and not make it but this isn’t my best event, maybe my third or fourth. So to swim so well so soon means I’m in a good place for the rest of the meet.”

Competing in the first Paralympic final of her career, Susie Rodgers finished sixth in the S7 100m Backstroke.

The European champion improved on her heat time to touch in 1:26.03 - just 0.2 seconds shy of her British record.

Steph Millward and Claire Cashmore finished fifth and eighth repsectively in the S9 100m Butterfly final.

Millward touched just 0.05 off her season's best in 1:12.01 while Cashmore - who will defend her SB8 100m Breaststroke silver medal later in the Games - came home in 1:14.56 after a season's best 1:13.26 in the heats.

Harriet Lee and Gemma Almond finished seventh and eighth respectively in the first Paralympic finals of their careers.

Competing in the SM10 200m Individual Medley, Lee set a personal best 2:38.06 to qualify and stuck to a similar pace in the final, eventually touching in 2:39.42.

Meanwhile, British record holder Almond was just short of her best as she finished in 2:42.16, less than a second slower than her qualification time.

Finally, Anthony Stephens and Andrew Mullen came home sixth and eighth respectively in the S5 50m Freestyle.

After a season's best 35.59 in the heats, Stephens touched home in 35.74 while Mullen, who clocked a personal best 37.40 to qualify, finished in 38.08.

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