OTTERSHAW swimmer Hannah Russell is targeting more medals at two global events this summer.

The 25-year-old – a three-time Paralympic gold medallist – is aiming to be at the World Para Swimming Championships in Madeira in June and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July and August.

And Russell, pictured, is boosted by having been appointed OBE – Most Excellent Order of the British Empire – in the New Year Honours.

She told the News & Mail: “I’m really looking to see what I can deliver [at the two events].

“At the end of December I gained the qualification time for the 50m freestyle, which is the event I’ll hopefully be racing in this summer at the Commonwealths.

“That’s a massive positive, so now it’s time to sit back and cross my fingers that I get selected for the team.

“At the moment it’s about trying to get through the dark January mornings and early starts. It’s back to the grind.

“This period is about trying to get the metres in – it’s a lot of aerobic training, which isn’t the most enjoyable.

“I’m a sprint athlete and if you ask any sprint athlete it’s the long, boring sessions they don’t enjoy the most. But I’m pushing myself through them and in the next couple of weeks I’ll have the more enjoyable speed sessions ahead of a [Para Swimming World Series] trial for the Worlds in Aberdeen between 17-20 February.

“Beyond that we’re hopefully getting our first warm-weather training camp for two years, in [Canary Island} Lanzarote. The last time I did one of those was in January 2020.

“It will just be so nice to do outdoor training and get some sun. It makes such a difference to get away from home, have a different environment and purely put everything into training.”

Russell has been through a whirlwind of media and ceremonial commitments since returning from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics last summer with two medals – a gold having retained her 100m backstroke S12 title, and a bronze in the 100m freestyle S12 event.

She was invited to events such as the Women of the Year Lunch in London, and has also been on holiday – including a visit to family in Ireland – as she looked to make the most of some rare downtime.

It’s meant she has had enough on her plate to avoid the Paralympic blues which some athletes can feel after the culmination of four years’ training – or five in the case of the Tokyo Games, which were put back to 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And being appointed OBE was enough to make her feel like her sacrifices have been worth it.

She said: “Receiving the honour was a massive shock to me, as it’s quite a rarity.

“I was out with my family at home in Ottershaw and came back to see the letter. It was addressed to ‘Hannah Russell MBE’ and it had the royal stamp on the top. I thought to myself ‘You don’t often get letters with such high importance’ and it said private and confidential. Once I read it, my face lit up – I was so honoured.

“It was a massive roller-coaster of emotions with the five years it took to get to Tokyo.

“I’m really honoured for my achievements to be recognised and it just goes to show that all the hard work pays off.

“I don’t know when I’m getting it [the OBE medal] yet, as there’s a bit of a backlog [due to the pandemic]. But I’m really looking forward to receiving it.”