American superstar Jessica Long was the star of the show on Friday evening at the Paralympic Trials, breaking her 4th World Record of the meet so far. She was originally credited with only two on the first night of the meet, but that was adjusted after it was discovered that en route to her 100 breaststroke record, she also cleared the standard for the 50.
But before she got to her record-breaking swim, there were a ton of American Records and world-leading times set by other Paralympic hopefuls.
In the men’s S9 100 backstroke, Justin Zook wasn’t quite able to break his World Record mark set in prelims, but his 1:02.50 gives him the two-fastest times in the World this year and all-but seals up his spot on the Olympic Team.
Two other swimmers in the men’s 100 back put themselves in position for the Olympic Team. Dalton Herendeen moved to 5th in the world in the S10 race with a 1:03.76, and Tucker Dupree moved to 3rd in the world in the S12 race in 1:03.51.
And in the S8 Classification, Tom Miazaga dominated a loaded field in 1:12.45. That’s about an eight-tenths drop from prelims, but leaves him sitting only 7th in the world this year. That puts his chances at qualifying for a second Paralympic Games in jeopardy.
Paralympic superstar Jessica Long had her first minor stumble of the meet in the women’s S8 100 backstroke final; she won handily in 1:19.82; though that is a world leader for 2012, it is more than two seconds off of her best time set in 2010 (and slower than she was last year as well). After breaking the 100 breaststroke World Record on Thursday, this now remains the lone event on her likely Paralympic schedule that she won’t enter as a favorite for gold. More on her later, though, as she had a huge swim later in the session.
The women’s 50 freestyle, an event where the American Paralympians have historically been fairly weak, has started to show signs of life with 3 American Records, and a near-miss of a World Record.
Letticia Martinez, the only competitor in the S11 50 freestyle, also cracked her own American Record in the event with a 33.51. She now moves up to 6th in the world this year.
The other two records went at the hands of emerging stars of this team: 16-year old Alyssa Gialamas out of Illinois and 17-year old Victoria Arlen.
Gialamas swam a 45.77 in the S5 50 freestyle, which cuts almost two seconds off of her record set just three weeks ago. She took up the sport just over 18 months ago, and has been taken under the wing of her local club coach Dave Graffy. After making the ParaPan American Games squad last year (and winning four silver medals for the US), her career has really taken off and she could be one of the youngest members of Team USA. Gialamas was born with arthrogryposis, a condition that restricts the motion in many of her joints (knees, wrists, feet jaw). With free range in her hips and shoulders, however, she was naturally drawn to the long-axis freestyle and backstroke races. Her biggest challenge has been learning the dive – her limited motion makes a standard start challenging. But even in a sprint event like the 50, she more-than makes up for a weak start once she’s in the water.
The other record went to Victoria Arlen in 35,90 in the S6 class. She’s now ranked 2nd in the world in 2012 in that event. She adds this record to the World mark she set on Thursday evening in the 400 free with an outstanding sprint-distance dual-skill. Noga Nir-Kistler took 2nd in 36.97 – that ranks her 4th in the world and gives her a great shot at London as well with a women’s team that will be much larger than the men’s.
In the women’s S7 race, Mallory Weggemann won in 31.88, which is the number-one time in the world in 2012 and misses her own World Record by under two tenths. Victories in the 100 backstroke and 50 fly brought her win total to 5 events on the meet through two days. Though she missed her mark in the whole of this race, she did grab the 50m record with a 39.16 at the halfway split (unofficially, as athletes have to formally file for a split to be considered as a record). This was one she didn’t have – as she took down the Record belonging to German veteran Kirsten Bruhn.
Jessica Long bounced back and matched that win total by setting yet another World Record – her 4th of the meet – in the women’s S8 100 fly with a 1:10.98. That took down her old mark of 1:11.14 set late last year. Amanda Everlove, who was 2nd in this race to Long in Beijing, touched in 1:18.23.For the defending silver medalist to be 8 seconds behind shows how dominant Long is in this race. There’s a young 17-year old out of the Ukraine named Kateryna Istomina who broke the European Record in May, but even she is two seconds behind Long in the race.
In the men’s 100 fly, Ian Silverman, who trains with North Baltimore, won the S10 division in 1:01.08, which breaks the American Record of Justin Zook. Silverman, like everything else coming out of NBAC these days, is swimming extremely well. Baltimore, much like it is in Olympic swimming, is a hotbed of the Paralympic side of the sport too – Long grew up in Baltimore after being adopted from a Russian orphanage at 13 months old.