Bethany Firth: Winning gold for Northern Ireland ‘means the most’

Bethany Firth says winning gold for Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games “means the most” out of all her impressive medal collection.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Thursday, 4th August 2022, 8:00 am

Firth completed her medal collection last night by adding a Commonwealth gold to her multiple Paralympic, World Championship and European honours.

It was Team NI’s first gold of the Birmingham Games and the night got even better with Daniel Wiffen winning a silver medal in the pool in the 1500 metre freestyle while heptathlete Kate O’Connor also won silver at Alexander Stadium.

For the first time at the Commonwealth Games Firth’s specialist discipline was included and the Seaforde swimmer started as a heavy odds favourite in the S14 200m freestyle final, and she didn’t disappoint controlling the race from start to finish beating England’s Jessica Applegate by over a second.

Bethany Firth celebrates with the gold medal after winning the Women’s 200m Freestyle S14 Final

“I can’t put it into words how much this means,” said an ecstatic Firth. “It has been so hard in my 10 years of swimming the ups and the downs, the coming back, setting records this definitely means the most to me.

“I have represented Great Britain for so many years so it was actually nice to come out here and have the Northern Ireland flag on my hat. I have lived there my whole life and I have trained there my whole life, and everyone means so much to me, we are such a small nation but we are mighty.”

To put the icing on the cake Lady Mary Peters presented Firth with her gold medal.

“I didn’t know she was presenting the medal until I saw her and it made it so so special,” she said. “She is definitely an inspiration, an inspiration for Northern Ireland and she promotes us so much.

“Since I was a young girl she supported me so much and I always looked up to her, and now to have a medal presented by her...words can’t describe it.”

Firth has topped so many podiums in her career but to do it in Birmingham was the pinnacle.

“This one was extra special as I got to hear our national anthem,” she said. “I have never stood up with a medal round my neck and heard our anthem so it meant the world to me.”

In the race itself Firth led from start to finish.

“I felt a lot of pressure,” she said. “I just kept me head down, I knew me and my team had worked so hard and I knew if I just kept my head down and focused on my own race we’d get it. I touched the wall first and I literally can’t say how much that means to me.

“There are a lot of sacrifices and a lot of dedication - my family, my husband they sacrifice so much for me to be able to do this and to do it at such a high level. No one sees the hard grit that goes into getting the medal but it is all definitely worth it in the end.”

Firth has got married this year, won five gold medals at the world championships and now a gold in the Commonwealth Games and she is going to celebrate by getting away for a while.

“I definitely need a honeymoon,” she joked.