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Inspirational Hannah Russell realises her dream after retaining Paralympic title

Inspirational Hannah Russell said she had realised a dream by successfully defending her Paralympic title – after taking a break from the pool to focus on her mental health.

Russell took time away from the sport when she diagnosed with depression and anxiety after winning two gold medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

But the break made her realise how much she had missed swimming and gave her a desire to ‘never give up and believe in your ability’.

After she took top spot in the Women’s S12 100m Backstroke final in a time of 1:08.44, a delighted Russell said: “It’s absolutely incredible to defend my Paralympic title in Tokyo.

“It’s a dream come true really. I have had a few difficult years and I overcame them. I trained so hard, the hardest I have ever trained, and to top the podium is surreal.

“I was struggling with my mental health and I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and took a couple of years out to really focus on my mental health.


Hannah Russell on her way to gold in the Women's S12 100m Backstroke final at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

Picture: ParalympicsGB

“For me, taking out a little bit of time was really, really important for me and my mental health.

“I realised how much I missed my swimming – swimming is a massive part of my life.

“I worked so hard this year so to be able to come here and deliver a performance as I did. If you believe, you can really achieve anything. 

“Never give up on your dreams.

“I want to thank all my family at home so much – without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

“My mum, my dad, my sister, my grandparents and extended family, thanks so much for your support.

“I’m overwhelmed at the moment – I can’t wait to go home and give them a massive hug.”