PARA swimming sensation Alice Tai says the roars of a home crowd helped push her to gold at the World Para Swimming Championships in London.
The 20-year-old, born in New Milton and a former pupil at Bournemouth Collegiate School, is now based in the capital with Ealing Swimming Club.
Tai made no secret of wanting to take gold in front of friends and family, having settled for double bronze at the 2015 world championships in Glasgow.
She took S8 100m freestyle glory in a time of 1:03.77, a full 2.3 seconds ahead of 13-time Paralympic champion Jessica Long of the USA.
The time was just a 10th of a second off the world record – set by Tai herself in Sheffield in May last year.
Tai revelled in the success and particularly the fact her loved ones had the perfect view – indeed, they were the first faces she saw after the victory.
“I love the home crowd – on the last length, it just pushed me on,” she said.
“It’s strange as my family are sitting right in front of where we exit the pool so as soon as I finished the race and I was getting out, I could see them cheering.
“I saw Ellie Simmonds’ race before mine and heard the roar when she turned for the final length.”
Tai will be targeting a similar haul to last year’s European championships in Dublin, from which she took home four gold medals.
She has opportunities to return to the top of the podium in five further events: the 100m backstroke, 100m butterfly, 400m freestyle, 50m freestyle and 200m individual medley.
The youngster credited a recent change of coach and training programme for her progress, coming at the perfect time with the Tokyo Paralympics less than a year away.
“My training has come on a lot since Rio, I’ve moved programmes and that’s helped. I’m still adapting and hopefully by Tokyo that will make all the difference,” she said.
“Looking ahead, the Paralympics is always the big one so it will be nice to take what I’ve done here and progress that and hopefully swim faster there.”
For more information on the GB Paralympic team visit www.paralympics.org.uk.