Bethany Firth aims to shine for GB at World trials

By Elizabeth HudsonBBC Sport
Swimmer Bethany Firth
Firth was just 16 when she won Paralympic gold in London

Bethany Firth is hoping to show she can be one of the new stars of the Great Britain team at this week's Para-Swimming International in Glasgow.

Firth, who has learning disabilities, won S14 100m backstroke gold for Ireland at London 2012, but in late 2013 opted to switch nationalities.

Her first major international will be July's IPC World Championshipsexternal-link with this week's event doubling as trials.

"The GB team understand S14 swimmers very well," Firth told BBC Sport.

"There are others on the team like me so there are people who I can talk to and who know what I am going through. The support that GB has given me has helped me to swim faster."

The 19-year-old from Seaforde in County Down has problems with her short-term memory, meaning it takes her longer to remember new techniques.

While she was the only S14 swimmer in the Ireland squad, she has joined a GB set-upexternal-link which also includes fellow S14s in Paralympic champion Jessica Jane Applegate, European bronze medallists Chloe Davies and Nicole Lough as well as Commonwealth Games silver medallist Thomas Hamer.

Bethany Firth facts
Born: 14 February 1996
Lives: Seaforde, County Down - trains at Newtownards and Bangor
Won S14 100m backstroke gold at London 2012
Won silver medals in 100m breaststroke, 100m backstroke and 200m freestyle at 2013 IPC World Championships in Montreal
Competed in six individual events and two relays for Northern Ireland at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games

"The other S14s are pushing me in the pool but outside it we are friends and I'm really enjoying it," Firth says.

"I've been spending time each month at the GB National Performance Centre in Manchester working with the coaches and it helps to have the chance to use the facilities and train with some of the others on the team."

As well as competing in disability events, Firth, who trains under coach Nelson Lindsay at Ards Swimming Club, also competes in mainstream events and represented Northern Ireland at last year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

She goes into the trials, which start on Thursday, as fastest in the world this year in three of the four events she will be hoping to compete in at the Worlds, which also take place in Glasgow, and keen to make a big impact, especially in the backstroke where she has been working on a new turn.

Also in action at the trials will be Paralympic champions Ellie Simmonds and Ollie Hynd as well as defending world champions Amy Marren, Steph Millward and Matt Walker and 14-year-old Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Erraid Davies.

"Everything has been going very well," Firth adds. "I had my first long-course meet of the season a couple of weeks ago and had some really good times there, which I was delighted about.

"It was hard not being able to compete at the European Championships last year but I meant I could focus on my swimming and it has made me more determined to succeed this year.

"I'm looking forward to swimming fast at trials and hopefully have my first chance to compete for Great Britain."

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