ECSTATIC Hannah Russell was in Paralympic paradise this week after returning home with three London 2012 medals.
The Ottershaw teenager, who was fast-tracked into the squad by selectors after rising to prominence in a breakthrough year, was the first ParalympicsGB swimmer to bag two medals in the Aquatics Centre.
She followed up a debut Games silver in the S12 400m freestyle with bronze in the 100m butterfly – setting a new British record in the process. And visually-impaired Hannah, 16, completed her haul with a bronze in the 100m backstroke.
After powering her way to a hat-trick of podium finishes in what will go down as the greatest Paralympic Games of all time, the former Gordon’s schoolgirl revealed the biggest rush came from knowing she had helped make history.
She said: “I came to the Paralympic Games as a young athlete just trying to enjoy the experience – to come away with three medals is a bonus.
“London 2012 was a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to compete in a home Games. It won’t come around again for a long time now and I’m delighted to say that I was part of a very talented GB team.”
Hannah made some serious waves at London 2012 and looks to have nailed down a place in the squad for years to come.
Her heroic performance in the 400m freestyle – in which she finished seven-tenths of a second behind Russian winner Oxana Savchenko – signalled her arrival at the Games.
But heading into the heats, modest Hannah was only focused on her own performance.
She said: “I just wanted to go into the heats and give it my all. I knew that if I got to the final I’d have another chance.
“Coming away with a three-second personal best gave me great confidence for the final.”
And she thanked the tremendous support of her screaming fans for helping her secure a stunning silver.
Hannah added: “I remember in the last leg hearing the crowd rise up and they really did bring me in at the end – the noise was unbelievable.
“I didn’t leave anything in the pool – I gave it everything.”
“My very first event was definitely my highlight.
“Winning my first medal and being on the podium in front of everyone after the 400m freestyle was truly amazing.”
But her amazing rollercoaster Paralympic bow did not end there.
Back-to-back bronze medals followed and there was a surprise or two for Hannah when she finally returned to her home in Brox Road.
“I tried to stay off Twitter, Facebook and my phone for the duration of the Games, but they’ve been going mad since I picked them back up. The support has been amazing from and I’m so grateful.”
Beaming dad Carson, who says the best is yet to come from his talented daughter, said he could not be happier for Hannah.
He added: “The family are so proud of Hannah and all she has achieved.
“It’s been a long journey and everyone has made sacrifices – no one more so than Hannah and we are delighted.
“It was a bit of a whirlwind that has come from us at all angles.
“Hannah has been featured on Sky, BBC, ITV and Channel 4, as well as in the national and local press.
“But she hasn’t peaked yet, the plan is to be challenging for golds in Rio. London 2012 was never about medals, it was about gaining experience and celebrating all her hard work.”