Aquatics / Athletics

Stephens ‘super happy’ with Commonwealth silver as Arnott just miss out on another medal

FORMER Plymouth student Laura Stephens said she was ‘super happy’ after claiming her first major senior international medal at the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday evening.

Olympian Stephens, who studied at Plymouth College before going on to do a degree at the University of Plymouth, took silver for Team England behind Australian Elizabeth Dekkers in the women’s 200m butterfly final with an impressive 2:07.90 swim.

“I’m really, really happy with that,” said the 23-year-old. “I just went out there and enjoyed it.

“I gave it all I had down that last 50 and that hurt, but the crowd were incredible – I could hear them the whole way.”

She added: “That’s a really big boost for me. I’m super happy to come away with that silver medal.

“I’ve had so many ups and down – and it seems like more downs – but I’m just over the moon to come away finally with an individual medal.”

Stephens, a University of Plymouth architectural engineering graduate, admitted it was ‘special’ swimming in front of all her family and friends at the newly-built Sandwell Aquatics Centre.

Also in the swimming on Tuesday evening, fellow former Plymouth College pupil and city student Ben Proud qualified fastest for the final of the men’s 100m freestyle event, with team-mate Lewis Burras third fastest.

Proud, who has already won the 50m butterfly gold in Birmingham, is the new world champion at the 50m freestyle and is looking for a hat-trick of Commonwealth Games gold medals in the ‘splash-and-dash’.

Plymouth Leander and Plymouth College’s Aimee Canny, competing for South Africa, finished sixth in the women’s 100m freestyle in 54.88 seconds. She then agonisingly just missed out on a medal in the mixed medley relay. Canny swam the last leg as South African finished fourth, just 0.25 of a second off bronze. It was Canny’s third relay fourth place with South Africa.

On the track, City of Plymouth athlete James Arnott was another to narrowly miss out on a medal.

Arnott, a silver medallist back in 2018 in Australia, finished fourth in the final of the combined T45-47 100m at the Alexander Stadium.

Arnott booked his place in the final by finishing second in his heat with a 11.50 second run.

He then went even faster in the final, clocking a season’s best 11.45 seconds, but was edged out by England team-mates Emmanuel Oyinbo-Coker, who won, and Ola Abidogun, who took bronze, with Australian youngster Jayden Page picking up silver.

The top three were all T47 athletes, but Arnott was the first T46 runner.

Afterwards Arnott said: “At the start of the Games I said I wanted to walk off the track with my head held high knowing that I deserved to be there, and that’s what I did.

“Fourth is a tough one, but the journey to even stand on that line was tougher.

“The boys are world class and they proved it. Four years ago it was only me, but now we had three Englishmen in the final and two on the podium. Even though I wasn’t one, it was an honour to be part of a journey to see para sport flourish.”

Also on the first day of athletics in Birmingham there was a silver medal for Cornwall pole vaulter Molly Caundery.

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