Holly Hibbott enjoyed a night to remember as she won a thrilling 800m Freestyle final to claim gold on the first night of swimming at the inaugural European Games.
It was a successful first day for the British team, with Abbie Wood also taking individual gold in the 400m Individual Medley and the men’s and women’s 4x100m Freestyle quartets closing the night with gold and bronze respectively.
Stockport Metro swimmer Hibbott’s performance was one to savour as she downed double Olympic champion Adlington’s British 15 Yrs Age Group record from 11 years ago.
Hibbott and Russia’s 14-year old Anastasiia Kirpichnikova quickly pulled clear in the final, with the Russian maintaining a narrow lead at each turn.
"This is definitely the highlight of my career so far," - Holly Hibbott
With 100m to go, the Brit turned to her legs and took control of the race, storming home 0.71 seconds ahead of her rival in 8:39.02, smashing her old PB and ducking under Adlington’s old British marker of 8:39.63 from the 2004 European Junior Championships in Lisbon.
"I think this is definitely the highlight of my career so far and it inspires me to go on in the future and do more,” said Hibbott.
"I didn't really expect to win gold but I was hoping that I could do it. I saw Abbie earlier and she did really well. I was so happy for her."
Derventio’s Wood also swam a PB as she became the second fastest 16-year old Brit of all time with a 4:41.97 effort, sailing under her old best time of 4:45.05.
Italy’s Ilaria Cusinato took the lead in the backstroke stage of the final before Wood burned through the field with her breaststroke, establishing a two-second lead which she held in the final 100m of freestyle.
City of Leeds’ Georgia Coates narrowly missed out on a medal as she finished fourth in 4:46.52 but the 16-year old bounced back to win bronze on the anchor leg for the 4x100m Freestyle Relay quartet, teaming up with Darcy Deakin (City of Sheffield), Madeleine Crompton (Stockport Metro) and Hannah Featherstone (Sedgefield) as they finished in 3:45.80.
The boys’ 4x100m Freestyle Relay sprung a surprise from lane two to claim GB’s third gold of a remarkable day, winning in 3:19.38 ahead of Italy (3:20.19) and Russia (3:20.22).
Stirling’s set the team up perfectly – and laid down a marker of intent for day two’s 100m Freestyle – with a British 18 Yrs Age Group record 49.46 opening leg before Martyn Walton (Hatfield), Dan Speers (Millfield) and Cameron Kurle (Millfield) brought the British quartet home.
There were also two British 17 Yrs Age Group records for Cockermouth swimmer Luke Greenbank as he qualified fastest for the 100m Backstroke final in 54.65 after a 55.12 heat swim.