Irish swimmers Bethany Firth and Darragh McDonald win gold medals at the Paralympic Games

Bethany Firth won Ireland's first gold medal of the Paralympic Games in London.

Ireland’s Darragh McDonald earned himself a top place on the Paralympic podium, alongside Bethany Firth, as he became the second Irish competitor to nab himself a gold medal.

McDonald dominated during his S5 400-meter freestyle race, on Saturday, posting a time of 4.55.56. The 18-year-old previously won a silver medal at the Beijing Games.

McDonald told the Irish Times “I knew I had something left in the tank from this morning, but I didn’t know I’d be looking at that much.

"To see Anders [Olsson, the world record holder] fall back so far was an amazing feeling. We knew it was going to be a two horse race. To get the edge on him from the beginning was a huge bonus for me. It spurred me on for the rest of it.

“I said before I started that I wasn’t going to think about times. I was just going to swim at my own speed.”

On Friday night Bethany Firth won Ireland’s first gold swimming the S14 100-meter backstroke. She won by over half a second sending the Irish crowd into a frenzy.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny paid tribute to the  16-year-old from Seaforde, County Down. The Irish leader called Firth an inspiration to young people and said she had done her country, family and Team Ireland proud.

Firth, who has an intellectual disability, said “Oh, it’s amazing ... I can’t believe it. Words can’t describe how I feel at the minute.”

“I looked up at 25 and thought ‘I really need to pick this up,'” she said.

“It just took me to the end. I thought I had finished third but then I looked up and saw I came first. The crowd was amazing. I could even hear them under the water and everything.”