One American’s disappointment was another American’s redemption on day 4 at the 2012 Paralympics in the London Aquatics Centre.
Mallory Weggemann was reclassified shortly before the start of the meet from an S7 to an S8, meaning she was put up against athletes with more limb function than those she was used to. That includes American superstar Jessica Long, who was gunning for 9 gold medals.
If there were an event where Weggemann would pull off the upset, it’s this one. In the 50 free, the difference between the two classes is tiny, Weggemann is the World Record holder as an S7, and it’s Long’s weakest event.
Sure enough, in a bang-bang finish, Weggemann earned the gold medal: the first Paralympic medal of her career. She swam a 31.13 that is a new Paralympic Record and is the second-fastest time in class history. She outran Australian Maddison Elliott, who broke a National Record with a 31.44, and a pair of former World Record holders: China’s Shengnan Jiang (31.55 for bronze) and Heather Frederiksen (31.93 for 6th).
As for Long, who doesn’t have enough space in the 50 free to use her incredible closing speed, was 5th in 51.71.
In the S13 women’s 100 freestyle, the Americans got another gold medal from Kelley Becherer. That completed a sprint sweep in the S13 classification for the Division I swimmer at Northeastern University.
There was no World Record in either of those races, but there were plenty of others on Sunday, as there has been throughout the meet. The powerful Ukrainian team got a World Record in the men’s S7 200 IM from Yevheniy Bohodayko in 2:33.13. Both he and American Rudy Garcia-Tolson crushed the old mark by two seconds, that had previously belonged to Garcia-Tolson from the morning heats.
Garcia-Tolson competed in the 200m T42 event on the track on Saturday night before hopping back into the pool on Sunday, as a two-sport Paralympian. His best efforts remain in swimming, though, which should lead to the majority of his medals.
“The pool is where my heart is at,” Garcia-Tolson said after the quick turnaround this morning. ‘I’ve always been a swimmer but being out there on the track yesterday was amazing, to represent my country.”
In the women’s version of the same race, Australian Jacqueline Freney won by 10 seconds in 2:54.42. Oddly, the official results site lists this as a World Record, but Mallory Weggemann, before being moved up, was about six seconds faster. Either way, this is a third gold medal for Freney at this meet so far.
In the first relay action of the meet, the men’s 34 point 400 free relay, the Australians broke the Paralympic Record with a 3:50.17. The Americans were 6th in a 3:59.16.
Other Notable Results
- Ihar Boki won Belarus’ 2nd gold of the meet in the men’s S13 100 free with a new World Record time of 51.91. He knocked off South African Charles Bouwer, who was 2nd in another African Record of 52.97.
- New Zealand’s Cameron Leslie obliterated the SM4 150 IM World Record with a 2:25.94, which is five seconds faster than his best time from April. He had an even greater margin over this field, winning by 14 seconds ahead of Meixco’s Gustavo Sanchez-Martinez.
- Jianping Du broke a World Record in the same distance but the SM3 classification with a 2:43.72. That gave China its 8th gold medal of the meet to keep them ahead of Australia and the United States as their fireworks from the first few days of this meet have faded a bit.