A SOUTH Tyneside swimming star is flying the flag for Britain – after adding to her medal collection against the cream of the Continent.
Talented teenager Nicole Lough scooped a bronze medal in the IPC Swimming European Championships in Eindhoven last week, and played a starring role in the event’s opening ceremony.
Nicole, from Craster Avenue, South Shields, was among the swimmers flying the Union flag at the opening of the prestigious event, which brings Europe’s best paralympic swimmers together.
The podium finish adds to her bronze medal success at last year’s World Championships in Canada.
The 19-year-old made waves in the pool – despite the sad loss of her great grandmother just days before the competition started.
Nicole’s great-gran, Joan Gracie, died after a long illness at the age of 83.
City of Sunderland swimmer Nicole had to fly out for the championships just a day after she passed away.
Mum Sheryl McKenna, who cheered on Nicole in Holland along with her father Andi Lough, said: “She had just lost her nan the Friday before, so it was hard for her.
“We weren’t sure if she was going to be compete.
“She was her number one fan and they were very close.
“We are really proud of her. She went out and did it for her nan.
“She did really well. It was very close. It was a hand-touch finish for the silver medal.
“The three medal winners are the top three in the world rankings.”
Nicole showed her strength of character to put in a medal-winning display and cap off a memorable sporting week.
Ms McKenna added: “She was also one of the flagbearers at the opening ceremony.
“We didn’t expect that. She really enjoyed it. It was a shock.”
Nicole’s time was so impressive it set a British record for the first 50m and was also her first able-bodied national time.
This means Nicole, who competes in Para-events due to a learning disability, hit the qualifying time for the 50m breaststroke to compete against able-bodied British swimmers in future events.
Ms Mckenna added: “She was delighted to get the able-bodied national time. It has always been a goal of hers.”
Nicole flew home from the championships on Monday and will now be setting her sights on making a big splash in future championships, including the World Championships in Glasgow next year and the Paralympics in Rio in 2016.