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Barry McClements registers personal best

Barry McClements, from Newtownards, is representing Team Ireland in swimming
Malcolm McCausland

After the pomp and formality of the impressive opening ceremony on Tuesday, Barry McClements kicked off the action for Team Ireland yesterday at the 2020 Paralympics.

The Ards swimmer got the ball rolling in the best possible fashion with a new personal time in his S9 400m freestyle heat. Unfortunately, that still meant that he missed out on the final after finishing fifth in his heat with a time of four minutes, 27.11 seconds. Only the top eight progressed with McClements ranking ninth overall.

Ireland's Nicole Turner swam the fastest race of her life, finishing eighth in the final of the S6 50m freestyle at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. The two-time Paralympian showed all her experience by setting a new personal record to qualify for the final.

She improved again in the medal-decider to finish a very respectable eighth in 35.29 seconds. Ukraine's Yelyzaveta Mereshko claimed the gold medal breaking the Paralympic record with a 33:11 seconds clocking.

"I'm being hard on myself if I say I would have liked to go a bit faster, but it was about a quarter of a second faster than this morning, so it's another PB,” said the Laois swimmer. “I am really happy. From this morning the aim was just to get into the final and swim the final and come out with that, so I am very happy with that."

Róisín Ní Riain was also eighth in the S13 100m butterfly final in a time of 1:09:26. The 16-year-old from Limerick set a personal best of 1:08:18 as she finished third in her heat and eighth fastest overall on her Paralympics debut.

In cycling Paralympic debutant Richael Timothy set a new personal record in the C1-C3 3000m individual pursuit, where she produced a battling performance, narrowly missing out on a place in the final. The Roscommon woman started aggressively, going out hard from the beginning and keeping a strong pace to catch her opponent, Yvonne Marzinke, on the third lap.

Her finish of 4:11.69 was a 14-second improvement on her previous personal best but lost out on a place in the final, finishing ninth place overall in a race where the world record was broken twice.

Elsewhere Colin Judge showed plenty of character in his table tennis Class 3 men's singles qualifying event first-round match but was unable to overcome Zhao Ping.

Paired with the world number six, the odds were always stacked against the Dubliner who did not help his cause with a nervous start on his Paralympic debut, losing the first set 11-6. He improved in the second set, holding Zhao at 9-9 until the Chinese took two quick consecutive points to leave Judge needing to win the remaining three sets.

Judge continued to improve and again was 9-9 with Zhao in the third set but was not to be bested this time, winning 12-10. Unfortunately, Zhao stepped up after that to take the fourth set 11-6 and seal victory over the game Irish man. Judge will now be hoping that Zhao wins his second match against a Brazilian opponent to maintain his hopes of moving on to the next round.

Meanwhile Great Britain’s representatives made a solid start claiming six medals on the first day. Sarah Storey took a record 15th Paralympic title, smashing her world best by over four seconds in qualifying the C5 3,000m individual pursuit and in the final caught team-mate Crystal Lane-Wright before the finish line.

The Manchester native has now won medals at each of the eight Games she has attended was obviously emotional about her success.

"It's quite overwhelming," she said. "I don't know if it will sink in until I get home. I came here with a really solid plan of what I wanted to do, and I've delivered it, so it kind of blows your mind a bit. I talked before about breaking your personal best, in my case a world record, a small margin at a time. And I just knocked 4.3 seconds off.

Storey, who was born without a fully functioning left hand, started out as a swimmer at Barcelona in 1992 and competed as such at four Games, winning 15 Paralympic medals, including five golds, before switching to cycling in 2005. She has been almost unbeatable since then. She competes again on Tuesday in the C5 road time trial where she is defending champion and after that the road race on Thursday, 2 September.

England-based Katie-George Dunlevy carries the main hopes for a first Irish medal today when she competes in the women’s 1000m time trial. Galway native Ronan Grimes goes in the equivalent men’s event. Katie-George Gaffney and Tamsin Addison are involved in the equestrian competitions and Roisin Ni Riain and Ellen Keane take part in the pool. Colin Judge has a crucial table tennis match with the Brazilian W. Knaf which could see him through to the next round.

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