By Mark Etheridge
London Paralympics bronze medallist Hendri Herbst has won gold at the IPC European Championships in Portugal.
Swimming in the S11 category for the visually impaired, Herbst powered to victory in the 50-metre freestyle event.
Earlier in the competition he’d bombed out in the 100m backstroke after a third spot in the heats (1min 15.74sec). ‘The heats had gone well with a season’s best for the year. The finals weren’t that great though – I was very skew and just all over the place,’ he tells Road to Rio 2016 after finishing eighth in 1:16.38.
‘But I’m very happy with my 50m freestyle. ‘I had a good, solid swim in the morning with a 27.36 and then in the final I felt very good.’
The final, swum in the Penteada Olympic Swimming Complex, saw him clocking 26.96 for an African record as he beat Brazil’s Matheus Sousa into silver (27.60).
‘I’m extremely happy that I got another 26sec finish, just a few splits slower than in Brazil last week and the third fast time ever for me. This is the first time in four years that I’ve swum 26sec for the 50m free.’
All of which is good news for the Worcester swimmer who has been battling with a shoulder injury for a good while now.
‘I struggled with it since about October last year and despite lots of physic and rehabilitation work I missed university championships. So I took a break to focus on recovery and was back in the pool around the middle of January. I eased back into training with just a few sets a week and struggled to manage everything. But it’s just about sorted now.
‘My preparations could have been a lot better and I wasn’t confident going into the national disabled championships. I swam OK but was’t really satisfied.
‘Then at nationals I was worried whether I’d qualify but some hard work during the last few weeks before Durban saw me surprising myself and a few others with my results. I qualified for my three events and the encouraging thing was that there were some good times, better than I’d swum for a while.
‘My meeting in Rio was also great, I felt nice and light and fast in the pool so I’m in a good place now, mentally and physically and it’s just hard, hard work for a solid four months ahead of the Rio Paralympics.’
Herbst wraps up his Championships with the 100m freestyle on Saturday.