Paralympic champion Hannah Russell will join 91 athletes from 21 countries in celebrating the return of the World Series para swimming this Sunday.
The city of Sheffield in Great Britain will host the season-opener of the World Series 2021 at the Ponds Forge International Swimming Centre from 8 to 11 April.
Sheffield last hosted the World Series in 2018 and among those hoping to be on the podium again is Russell, Britain’s Paralympic and world champion.
“I am thankful and privileged to be given the opportunity to race [in Sheffield] at one of my favourite pools,” said the class S12 swimmer.
Russell has already competed twice this year. She won two mixed class events, 50m freestyle and 100m backstroke, at an international meet in Manchester in February and lowered her times at a second meet in the city last month.
Her success has boosted her confidence going into Sheffield and the Paralympic trials for Tokyo 2020.
“Performing a season’s best time, and strong performances in Manchester, have provided me with belief and confidence ahead of the Paralympic trials,” she said.
“It was extremely disappointing the Paralympic Games were postponed, but I approached it with a positive mindset. An extra year of training has been beneficial for me, and a great opportunity to get stronger and further excel as an athlete and a person.”
Other British stars in the team include Alice Tai (S8) who is the reigning World Series champion. She also secured a record-breaking seven gold medals at the London 2019 World Para Swimming Allianz Championships.
The top titles have also been won by Stephanie Millward (S9), who at 39 is the oldest of the 41 British swimmers in the squad. World champions Tully Kearney (S5) and Reece Dunn (S14) are in the line-up, too.
Israel and France have the next biggest teams: the visitors include countries from across Europe, Egypt, Japan, Iceland, Mexico, Russia and Uganda.
Current men’s 400m freestyle S7 world champion, Mark Malyar, will fly the flag for Israel alongside his twin brother Ariel (S4).
Paralympic Champion Dimosthenis Michalentzakis is the big hope for Greece. The only Para swimmer from his country at the event will compete in the 50m freestyle S8.
An Nishida (S7) is one of the five Japanese swimmers competing in Sheffield dreaming to win a medal for the host nation in Tokyo in August. Nishida will pit herself against some of the best in the world in the women’s 50m butterfly multiclass race.
At just 14-year-old, Husnah Kukundakwe is Uganda’s only classified elite Para swimmer. She made her first appearance at London 2019 and will race in freestyle and breaststroke S9.
At the end of a World Series’ season, the best female and best male swimmers’ awards are picked based on rankings. In 2019 Alice Tai and Spain’s Antoni Ponce claimed the women’s and men’s titles, respectively.
By Mary Barber| For World Para Swimming