After having time to reflect on her gold medal win in the S12 100m backstroke, Hannah Russell acknowledges it as her biggest accomplishment.

“The build up was so different to any other games with it being a five year wait rather than four, thrown in with my own personal challenges with my mental health, I was so proud.

“I was overwhelmed. It’s not a medal which is just mine because there’s so many people who I owe my medal too. It’s a massive team effort.” she said

Hannah was one of only 2 swimmers to retain their medals from the previous games which further shows how difficult it was to emulate success at the Tokyo games.

The road to a retained gold medal wasn’t easy for Hannah, during the 2019 season she took time away from the sport as her mental health deteriorated.

“It was the 2019 season when I noticed I wasn’t feeling well or acting like myself. I’m usually happy smiley Hannah and I knew then I had to ask for support. Everyone in life goes through blips and its important to ask for help.”

The time away from swimming was what Hannah needed to recharge and after getting the support she needed felt ready to go again and post a qualification time for the games.

“I found myself as a person and an athlete when I was at my lowest and that really helped me through the games being postponed as I saw it as an opportunity to take the extra 12 months to be better.”

Alongside being a champion athlete, Hannah also studied sports science achieving first class honours. She is full of praise for the University and how they were able to adapt to her being a world class swimmer.

“I praise Salford so much because they were so supportive with my sport even though they’re not renowned for being a sporting university.” she said

“The big thing with Salford is they take the time to support the students. I wanted to achieve my degree alongside my friends and year group and because of the universities adaptability I was able to do that. Trying to juggle lectures and training is difficult but was made easier for myself.”

With the Commonwealth games being held in Birmingham next year, Hannah is hoping to compete in the games for the first time as her event has been added.

“For the first time we will be competing on the same day as the able body athletes which is massive. I’ve never had a chance to compete at the Commonwealths so it is something I’m looking forward too.” Hannah said.

With the next year Paralympic games only 3 years away in Paris, Hannah will be looking to go 3 in a row on her gold medal.

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