Tully Kearney narrowly missed out on gold in the women’s 200m freestyle S5 final, as ParalympicsGB scooped a trio of medals on the first day of swimming action at Tokyo 2020.
Kearney – a seven-time world champion across freestyle and butterfly – led the race at world record pace until the latter stages but was eventually pipped by China’s defending champion Zhang Li, who finished 0.12s ahead with a time of 2:46.53.
Italy’s Monica Boggioni completed the podium in third, while fellow Brit Suzanna Hext just missed out on a medal in fourth.
After qualifying fastest for the final Kearney admitted the result was tinged with an element of disappointment, although having been forced to withdraw from the Games five years ago the 24-year-old was thrilled to open her medal account on sport’s greatest stage.
“I’ve been dealing with injuries and things, so I was nervous my fitness wouldn’t be good enough to swim in the 200m,” she said. “I’m really happy to swim close to my PB and I’ve got to be pleased with that.
“There was a question mark over whether I’d ever get to a Paralympic Games, so the fact I’ve been able to race and come away with a medal is just crazy.
“After Rio I thought that the Paralympics might not be possible, so this is a massive deal. It’s all thanks to my massive support team behind the scenes – I’ve just turned up and swam.”
Earlier, Reece Dunn reached the latest milestone in his rapidly rising swimming career by claiming silver in the men’s 100m butterfly S14 final, the first of four events being contested by the 25-year-old on his Paralympic debut.
Dunn – who only made his international bow in 2019 and won three golds and a silver at that year’s World Championships – had set a Paralympic record to qualify fastest in the heats, but Brazil’s Gabriel Bandeira bettered that time in the showpiece.
A clocking of 55.12 saw Dunn finish 0.36s behind the victorious Bandeira, but the former was delighted with a podium place after an interrupted journey to his first Games.
He said: “I had a tough time around December – I was a bit down in the dumps and didn’t really want to get out of bed in the morning. Then I caught Covid and was off for four weeks.
“So I’m happy. I knew it was going to be a tough race coming in – it was going to go down to the last five metres or so and he just beat me to it.
“I’m disappointed I couldn’t get closer to my PB, but it’s my debut Paralympics and I’ve got a silver medal in my first event, which isn’t bad!”
Toni Shaw got ParalympicsGB’s medal haul up and running in the pool with women’s 400m freestyle S9 bronze in the second race of the evening, thanks to an expertly-calculated swim in a time of 4:39.32.
2021 had already been a year packed with success for Shaw, with the 18-year-old Scot passing her driving test and achieving straight As in her higher exams, and the teenager admitted she surprised even herself with her latest accomplishment.
After finishing behind Australia’s Lakeisha Patterson and Hungary’s Zsofia Konkoly, Shaw said: “I know those girls are super fast and super talented, and I was just trying to hold on because they were shooting off.
“I was really nervous before tonight, but my coach helped me calm those nerves. It has been incredible and I want to say the biggest thank you to my friends and family back home, they have been so supportive and I’m glad it worked out.”
Elsewhere, Louise Fiddes and Jessica-Jane Applegate finished fifth and sixth respectively in the women’s 100m butterfly S14 final, while Zara Mullooly came home seventh in the women’s 50m freestyle S10 showpiece.