Rio Paralympics champion Bethany Firth has come back to college to a hero’s welcome.
After winning four medals — three gold and one silver — at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Co Down Paralympic champion and South Eastern Regional College (SERC) sport student Bethany Firth, has returned to college.
Having taken time out after the Paralympics Bethany is getting back to routine and has returned to SERC to complete her extended diploma in sport.
Bethany said: “I am really looking forward to getting back to my routine, meeting my new classmates, and just getting back into student life.” And Bethany will be doing just that with her feet firmly planted on the ground. The sports diploma Bethany is now taking on is equivalent to three A-Levels so she will have a busy time ahead as she delves into he academic work.
Tutor Lynda Robinson, SERC colleagues and new classmates, were just some of the people awaiting the Paralympian’s arrival. During class Bethany was presented with a bouquet of flowers and enjoyed a cuppa and cake with her new found friends. The Champion beamed with pride as she showed off her hard-earned medals.
Bethany who hails from Seaforde in County Down won an impressive quartet of medals for Team GB and set a new Games records by clocking 2:03.30 in the 200m freestyle event.
Firth left the Paralympics with gold medals in the 200-metre Individual Medley, 200-metre freestyle and 100-metre backstroke. She secured silver in the 100-metre women’s breaststroke.
SERC Assistant Head of School for Applied Science and Sport Lynda Robinson said: “We are glad to welcome Bethany back to the Bangor campus. SERC fresher’s can look up to how she has dealt with the fame and she is a fantastic role model for the College.”
SERC has a proud tradition of supporting student-athletes in their sporting and academic pursuits, including in 2012 when student Chloe Brown got the once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to accompany David Beckham and four other young sports people to attend the Olympic Flame Handover in Athens. SERC also had three alumni students who competed at the Rio Olympics including Iain Lewers who represented the Great Britain hockey squad, Matt McGovern represented the Irish Sailing Squad and Peter Caruth who represented the Irish hockey squad.
SERC recently affirmed their commitment to supporting their student-athletes earlier this year when rugby legend Stephen Ferris launched their Elite Athlete Programme, designed to provide aspiring elite athletes with the support they need to achieve both academic and sporting excellence.
Lynda said: “We know the commitment that is required to compete at a high level and we recognise that elite sporting activity can impact on a student-athlete’s ability to reach their full academic potential.
“The programme has been set up specifically to support elite and emerging athletes in achieving academic success by supporting them with flexible study assistance during their studies and sporting endeavours. It is hoped that the programme will educate, inspire, and empower student athletes to complete their education whilst also following their ambition. It’s our vision that every student leaving SERC will be inspired to achieve both academic and sporting excellence.”
The College is planning an official homecoming celebration for Bethany next month to give staff, students and fans the opportunity to mark her success and pay their own tribute to her.