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Watkin defends European Medley crown

4 July 2011

World Champion Louise Watkin sealed her first 2011 IPC Swimming European Championship gold medal after showcasing an impressive finish and a European record in the women’s SM9 Individual Medley.

The second day of competition saw the British Gas GBR Disability Swimming Team win four gold medals and a total of 13 medals overall.

It was a tough race from start to finish but I pulled it back as hard as I could and thankfully it worked.

Defending champion Watkin lined up for her race next to teammates Claire Cashmore and Kate Grey but it was Spain’s Sarai Gascon that had the best start.

Gascon turned first at the 50m mark and remained ahead of Watkin until the freestyle leg when the Brit turned on her power to pass her rival and seal her first gold of the Championships in a European record 2:35.99.

“It was a tough race from start to finish," said Watkin, who won S9 100m Freestyle bronze on day one. "Obviously I was down after the fly leg but I pulled it back as hard as I could and thankfully it worked and I got the gold medal.

“When I turned for the last 50m, I thought there was no way I would catch up but I pushed hard and managed to overtake her.”

Gascon was forced to settle for silver in 2:36.48 while Cashmore took bronze in 2:37.55. Grey finished seventh in 2:45.47.

The classic duel of Elizabeth Johnson and Charlotte Henshaw in the women’s SB6 100m Breaststroke didn’t disappoint as the pair swam stroke for stroke throughout the final.

My first Europeans were 10 years ago and this is my first European title so I'm over the moon.

Henshaw turned less than 0.2 ahead but Johnson overhauled her teammate over the final 50m to lift her first European title in a personal best 1:38.89.

And Johnson admitted she was beginning to feel the benefits of two years hard training since lifting Paralympic gold in 2008.

“I did two years of base work after Beijing and I think that has put me in a good position for this season," said Johnson.

"I have put work in on my speed and my race specific skills and that really came together today.

“My first European Championships was 10 years ago and this is the first time I have ever been European champion so I am over the moon.

Henshaw finished in 1:39.98 for silver while bronze went to Ozlem Baykiz (Turkey) in 1:51.10.

Tom Young won his first gold of the Championships in the men’s SB7 100m Breaststroke.

I knew I would have a good shout for the gold and I pushed out a 24 which I am really chuffed about.

Young took charge of the race from the start with a quick first 50m but Laroslav Semenenko (Ukraine) began to pull it back and then closed the gap on Young.

But Young - who won the race at the 2009 Europeans before being disqualified - held his form to maintain his slender advantage to the wall, finishing in a personal best 1:24.13.

“I knew coming out from the heats that I would have a good shout for the gold medal,” said Young . “I knew I would have to go sub 25 to get the gold. I got back and got rested up, had some food and pushed out a 24 which I am really chuffed about.”

Semenenko evevntually finished in 1:25.10 and Ruslan Sadvakasov (Russia) captured bronze in 1:30.70.

Dan Pepper won his first gold medal of the competition in the men’s S14 200m Freestyle but was pushed all the way by Marc Evers (Netherlands) in another nail-biting final.

I wanted to a bit quicker if I'm honest but I'm not going to complain - a personal best is a personal best!

British swimmer Ben Procter set the pace at the half-way mark but after taking over with 50m to go Pepper looked to have gold in the bag.

But Evers pushed the Brit all the way, with Pepper touching just 0.15 clear to win in a British record 2:01.27.

And the world champion admitted he had needed to dig deep to produce the goods in Berlin.

“I found that race very hard,” Pepper said.  “I went out a bit quicker than I normally do which I thought might have affected my back end but luckily I had enough in the last 25 to hold off Marc [Evers].

“I’m very pleased with the time. I wanted to go a bit quicker if I’m honest but I am not going to complain. A personal best is a personal best and I am delighted.”  

The silver went to Evers in 2:01.42 and Procter secured bronze in 2:03.30 with Craig Rodgie fourth in a personal best 2:04.77.

The women’s S14 200m Freestyle saw Natalie Massey win silver in a personal best 2:15.03 while James Crisp won silver in the men’s SM9 200m Individual Medley after finishing in a British record time of 2:19.85.

Paralympic Champion Heather Frederiksen also won silver, clocking 31.62 in the women’s S8 50m Freestyle final.

Emma Hollis won the bronze medal in the women’s SB7 100m Breaststroke, breaking her own British record with an excellent time of 1:41.42.

The men’s SM10 200m Individual Medley final saw Rob Welbourn smash his British record to win the bronze in 2:17.99 while Jack Bridge lowered his personal best io his first major championship final to finish fifth in 2:20.61.

International newcomer Gemma Almond won bronze in the women’s SM10 200m Individual Medley with a personal best time of 2:42.12. Emma Cattle finished in fifth after reaching for the wall in 2:45.79.

The men’s S5 50m Freestyle saw Anthony Stephens finish just outside of the medals in fourth place in a time of 36.38 while Sean Fraser finished sixth in the men’s S8 50m Freestyle after touching in 27.96.

National Performance Director John Atkinson commented: “We continued on day two where we left off on day one. We had four additional swimmers add to the gold medal tally. For me one of the highlights was Louise Watkin winning her race in a new European record time. I am pleased with how the first two days have gone and tomorrow sees our relay teams in action.”

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