Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Para Swimming 2018 Review: Dublin caps great year

Scotland's Para Swimmers performed exceptionally in Dublin last week, with each of our five athletes coming home with at least one medal.

It rounded off a great year for Para Swimming in Scotland.

Toni Shaw was arguably the star of the meet, with two Gold medals, two Silvers and two Bronzes despite her young age of 15.

Like her University of Aberdeen Performance programme team mate Conner Morrison, this was Toni Shaw’s first International Representative meet and boy did she deliver. She swam in six individual events across the S9 classification missing out on a medal in only the splash and dash of the 50m freestyle. Shaw was also involved in the 34 point Medley Relay where she swam the butterfly leg and helped the GB team finish on a Golden high in the final event of the meet in Dublin.

Scottish Swimming's Disability Performance Manager Paul Wilson said of Shaw's performance: "Totalling two Gold, two Silver and two Bronze medals at the meet must have been way beyond her wildest dreams.

The pick of her individual swims has to be the S9 400m freestyle where she controlled the race from start to finish in a field that included Nuria Marques Soto (ESP), the current Paralympic Champion in that event. She controlled the early part of the race from the front and showed maturity beyond her years to deliver an almost perfect race plan to pick up her first European Championship title. Toni is definitely a name to watch for the future."

Scott Quin also returned home from Dublin as a European Champion. Quin donned his lucky boxers and performed the signature 'Quinny' dance before storming to victory in the Men’s S14 100m breaststroke final. Having delivered consistently fast performances throughout the season he came in to this meet with the confidence that he could deliver another gold medal winning performance. He duly delivered retaining his title of European Champion from Funchal 2016 in a time of 1:07.21. Although he had to work for the win, Krainyk of the Ukraine took the race out fast over the first 50m before falling back to finish third, coupled with a late surge from teammate Morrison ensuring an exciting spectacle for the Dublin crowd.

Wilson said of Quin's racing in Dublin: "Although not a lifetime best swim Quin will be delighted with the Gold and will focus now on next season where he will look to find those small gains to stay one step ahead of his rivals. The fact he's still such a force in the S14 100m breaststroke despite turning 28 last month is testament to his commitment to the sport."

Talking of Morrison, for the 21 year old from Turriff made his international debut in Dublin meet and showed a calm determination in the way he went about his job. Winning a silver medal behind Scot Quin in the 100m breaststroke event, Morrison swam his own race and didn’t seem rattled by the occasion in the slightest.

Wilson said: "Having missed out on a World Championships last year, with the postponement of the event in Mexico, this was always going to be steep learning curve for Conner but one that he took well within his stride.

"There’s no doubt he’ll return to the University of Aberdeen Performance Programme looking to challenge for a medal in Kuching, Malaysia at next year’s World Championships."

Andrew Mullen picked up a Silver in the Men’s S5 50m butterfly and Bronze in the Men’s S5 50m backstroke. The experienced campaigner from City of Glasgow was up against a couple of new faces in the S5 classification in Yaroslav Semenenko (UKR) and Antonio Fantin (ITA) and had to work for his silverware. Mullen can be particularly pleased with his 50m backstroke swim dipping under 37 seconds in both heats and finals, having only been under this mark twice previously.

Wilson said: "Andy focused solely on the 50m events, building his preparation through the cycle towards 2020. These European Championships have shown that there will be a few more swimmers in the mix come Tokyo, so he will need to be ready for that."

It was three's a charm for Stephen Clegg in Dublin, as he made his third major international appearance and returned home with his first medals at this level, winning three bronze medals from his four events.

Clegg's medal were all the more impressive given the current strength and depth of the S12 field in European Para-Swimming.

Wilson said of Clegg's progress: "Since his move to City of Sunderland at the start of last season, Stephen has continued to show good progression, evidenced by breaking his own British Records in three out of his four events whilst in Dublin (50m Free, 100m Back & 100m Fly)."

Clegg will continue to work with coach Danny Thompson on refining his race skills with a view to targeting medal winning performances in Kuching Malaysia next year and onwards towards Tokyo 2020.

Covering the meet as a whole, Wilson commeted: "I’ve been really impressed by the performances out in Dublin this week. Medals aside; the approach, attitude and application of the five Scottish athletes has been exemplar and the performances in the pool back this up.

"There’s a good spread of youth and experience across the group and they support each other well within the wider confines of a GB team. These swimmers all have Tokyo in their sights so this was a great opportunity for them and their coaches to implement and now refine some of their final preparations going into a major championships."

Looking back at the rest of the international season, one of the main highlights was of course the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. Scotland sent out two Para Swimmers in Toni Shaw and Beth Johnston, both of whom were making their debuts on the international stage. 16-year-old Johnston finished ninth in the S10 200m Individual Medley, whilst Shaw made the finals of all four events and even more impressively, PB'd in each.

And going back to December and the National Para Swimming Championships in Manchester, Scottish athletes re-wrote the record books during a very successful weekend.

38 Scottish swimmers competed with World, European, British and Scottish Records broken. Conner Morrison and Abby Kane broke World Records (SB14 100m Breaststroke – 1:05.74 and S13 100m Backstroke – 1:09.59) while there were European Records for Andrew Mullen and Stephen Clegg.