Update: Jessica Long Actually broke THREE World Records, as her 50m split of the 100 breaststroke took the global standard down as well.
A new star emerged on night 1 of the 2012 US Paralympic Trials in Bismarck, North Dakota.
That happened when Victoria Arlen broke the IPC World Record in the S6 Women’s 400 freestyle in 5:24.46. That takes down the old record of Britain’s Eleanor Simmonds, one of the world’s great Paralympic superstars, that had stood at 5:25.20 from last year’s World Championships.
Arlen is not new to swimming – she was once a star in New England at the youth level, but in 2006 she mysteriously became permanently paralyzed from the waist down. By 2009, this led to her being in a total vegetative state, with doctors having no idea if she was going to even live. Finally, after three years, a diagnosis of spinal inflammation was discovered and treated – though not reversing the paralysis. Just over two years later she’s amazingly back on top of the swimming world.
It’s simply incredible that in such a short time, she has been able to go from bed-ridden to a champion of sport – after so many swimming comebacks have come-up short this year, this is one of the great comeback successes of 2012.
Arlen would also win the SB5 100 breaststroke in 1:49.29. That ranks her second in the world this year, behind only World Record holder Kirsten Bruhn from Germany.
Arlen also has a promising career as an actress – expect her combination of athleticism and personality to make her a star headed toward London.
In the S7 class of the same distance, the reigning star of the US team Mallory Weggemann won in 5:20.02. That ranks her 2nd in the world this year, but still 19-seconds behind the World Leader (and 15 seconds slower than her best time, done in 2010). But Weggemann has moved herself more toward the sprints in the last 18 months, so she wasn’t likely counting on this race as her Olympic invitation anyway.
Completing the run of the stars in the event, Jessica Long won the S8 division in a World Record of her own. Her 4:44.17 broke her own mark of 4:44.92 set in 2010.
One of the big stories of this year’s meet is that each Olympic Team has been cut down to 14 (as compared to 20 available spots in 2008); that will greatly increase the competition for a trip to London, and these three are likely to have three spots sealed up already.
Meanwhile, in the men’s S11 400 free, Bradley Snyder made his mark with a 4:35.62, which puts him easily at the top of the World Rankings this year. Snyder, a former Lieutenant in the Navy, was blinded by a buried bomb in Afghanistan. He’s brand new to this level of competition, and bettered his self-stated goal in the event by 13 seconds. That’s a fitting result on flag day.
In the men’s SB1 event, World Record holder Curtis Lovejoy wasn’t close to his best, but still put up easily his fastest time of 2012 (he’s the only SB1 swimmer in the world who’s swum this race this year).
In the women’s 50 breaststroke, veteran Aimee Bruder won the SB3 division in 1:11.69. She generally focuses her efforts on the freestyles (she was a bronze medalist in 2008 in the 100 free), but this was a nice changeup swim for her – she will be seeking her 6th Paralympic berth this year. Long and Weggemann are both World Record holders in this event, but neither swam it in the Olympic year.
That’s because they were focusing on the 100 breaststroke instead. Weggemann won the 100 breaststroke in 1:40.74, beating out runner-up Reilly Boyt in 1:51.18. That does put Boyt as 7th in the World this year, and Weggemann at the top of the pile.
Long would follow that up with her second World Record of the day, this one crushed. She’s been flirting with the SB7 100 breaststroker World Record all year, and when she decided it was time to break through, she did so in a big way. Her 1:28.53 broke her old mark of 1:31.00 from 2010.
Though she didn’t swim the individual 50 doesn’t mean that she didn’t attack the record. Her 50m split of that 100 was 42.07, which also breaks her own World Record in the race.
One of the biggest stars of the Men’s National Team, Rudy Garcia-Tolson, finished up the first night with a Continental Record for the Americas. The defending Olympic Champion won the men’s SB7 World Record with a 1:23.81. That cleared his 1:24.01 that took gold in Beijing. That time leaves him 3rd in the world in 2012. Evan Austin from the Concord Swim Team, dropped 5 seconds to post a 1:24.96, a 6th-ranked time. Garcia-Tolson didn’t have nearly the speed of Austin, but he’s got a lot more experience than the 19-year old and came back from a three-second deficit to take the win on the back-half.
Keep an eye out for Austin as the meet wares on; he’s one of the rising stars on the men’s side of the competition with double-digit American Records. He’s had an outstanding meet thus far, though this 100 breaststroke is his best shot at consideration for the Paralympic Team.