Re-blogged from the Telegraph author Nick Pearce 30.08.12
Schoolgirl Hannah Russell (From Chertsey) went one better than her heroine Rebecca Adlington on Thursday night when she swam a personal best time to take silver in the event they share, the 400metres freestyle.
Adlington won bronze over eight lengths this summer but Russell, a fellow blonde cut from the same determined cloth, dug deep to make the podium at her debut Games.
Her medal-winning time of 4 min 38.60sec, only 0.71sec behind Russian winner Oxana Savchenko, brought the Aquatics Centre crowd to its feet and capped a remarkable month for the 16 year-old, who earlier this month picked up eight GCSEs, and an A*.
The Union flags were being waved in the stands but Russell’s visual impairment meant that she was unaware of just how well she had done until she was well out of the pool.
Russell, and her fellow S12 swimmers, are unable to see the electronic scoreboard that displays the times and places and only once she had congratulated her colleagues and picked up her accreditation was she informed that she had a Paralympic medal to go alongside those exam results on the mantlepiece.
The great thing about the Aquatics Centre is that the home fans always make it very clear when a British swimmer is overachieving and Russell admitted that the noise level on the final length left her with a suspicion that she may be about to visit the podium.
“I absolutely loved the experience. As soon as I walked out to the roar of the crowd and the support it felt amazing and I was really looking forward to the race. Having them bringing me back to the finish line really helped me.
“I didn’t know how close the race was. But on the last length the home crowd were cheering me loads so I had a feeling that maybe there were people around me. I just kept my head down, kicked as hard as I could and tried not to breathe too much.”
In 2010 Russell was put on the Playground to Podium programme – that nurtures and funds young disabled sporting talent – with the intention of preparing her for the Rio 2016 Games.
However her natural talent and capacity for hard work shone through and she is now quite appropriately at the top of her sport. Russell, who has four other events to come at these Games, has a taste for success at the elite level now and will be hard to stop if she continues to approach everything in life with such dedication.
“Playground to Podium helped me loads,” she said. “To get here in 2012 was a dream come true for me. I shaved six seconds off my PB in total [on Thursday] and I can’t believe it. It just goes to show all the hard training can pay off in the end.”
Earlier, Nyree Kindred claimed the 10th Paralympic swimming medal of her career in the S6 100m backstroke thanks to a brilliant second split.
Kindred had won her heat with a Paralympic record but was not able to topple China’s Lu Dong, who was in front from the start and never relented.
Her time of 1min 26.23sec means she leaves the Aquatics Centre with a medal from her only event of the Games and her attention now turns to cheering on husband Sascha, a fellow Paralympic swimmer, in his four events.
“I’m extremely happy,” she said. “I’ve got a personal best and a silver medal, so I can’t ask for much more than that.”