18 World Marks Swept Away on First Day of USA Disability Champs

By Phillip Whitten

PHOENIX, June 22. DISABLED swimmers ignored 105-degree heat and unseasonal monsoonal humidity as eighteen world records were set on the first night of competition at the USA Swimming National Disability Championships. The three-day meet is being held in a very fast 50-meter pool at the picturesque Phoenix Swim Club, home of 2000 Olympic medalists Gary Hall, Jr., Anthony Ervin and Klete Keller.

Eleven of the world marks, which are still subject to official confirmation, were set by foreign swimmers; seven were set by Americans.

Disability Swimming Categories

In disability swimming, competitors are classified in one of 15 categories that correspond to their level of disability. Classes S1 through S10 refer to functional disabilities, with S1 swimmers having the most impairment and S10 the least.

Classes S11 through S13 are for the visually impaired, with S11 swimmers being individuals who are, essentially blind, and S13s with sight from 20/600 to 20/200.

S14 is the category for individuals with cognitive disabilities: swimmers who are enrolled in special ed or employment services for persons with mental retardation, severe learning disabilities, autism and so on.

Finally, S15 is the category for the deaf – athletes with a hearing loss of 55 decibels in the better ear with correction. There are no deaf athletes competing in Phoenix this weekend, as the nation's top deaf swimmers are preparing for the Deaf Games.

The Records

The evening's first event, the 200 meter freestyle, saw no fewer than ten world marks bite the dust. On the women's side, in the S-6 category, Brandi Van Anne (USA), a dwarf, clocked 3:42.87. Van Anne was the most prolific medal winner for the USA at the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games.

Melissa Peirgalline (USA) set an S-7 record of 3:03.27. Canada's Andrea Cole set the first of her two world marks this evening in the S-8 category, with her 2:50.83.

In the S-9 category, Sara Galbrecht (USA) clocked 3:21.62. Kendra Berner, a senior-to-be at davidson College, won the S-10 division in 2:22.66. Berner recently won the 2000-2001 Honda Inspiration Award.

Canada's Kirby Cote took the S-13 race in a record 2:16.73.

As in the women's events, the men's records were divvied up between the USA and Canada. In the S-7 division, the USA's Doug Noll clocked 2:41.09. In S-8, Onel Ramirez touched in 2:52.01.

Canada's Brad sales won the S-9 event in a record 2:17.72 while Philippe Gagnon took the S-10 race in 2:01.92.

Two women's and three men's records fell in the 100m backstroke, divided among swimmers from the USA, Mexico, Peru and Korea.

In the S-1 women's event, the USA's Jennifer Johnson set a mark of 4:31.12. In S-2, the record-setter was Virginia Hernandez of Mexico, who clocked 3:18.12.

For the men, Jaime Eulert of Peru, took the S-3 event in 2:10.67. Mexico's Juan Reyes set a world mark in the S-4 division, clocking 1:41.60. Reyes, 19, who has no arms and only one leg, was a triple winner at the 2000 Paralympic Games. Finally, Korea's Seung-Kyu Kong won the S-5 division in 1:48.40.

Two records fell in the 200m fly. In addition, an unofficial world best was established.

Canada's Andrea Cole notched her second world mark of the evening when she touched home in 3:19.04 in the S-8 division. Great Britain's Chris Pugh twice lowered the S-14 standard, clocking 2;20.15 in prelims and 2:16.99 in the finals.

In the S-7 category, 13 year-old Deborah Gruen, of Handen, CT., swam 4:01. The time will not count as an official world mark, as the classification system does not recognize the ability of S-7 swimmers to complete more than 50 meters of butterfly. Despite what the classification book said, Gruen, who has spina bifida, maintained a beautiful, steady stroke throughout the 200 meters and appeared to have little difficulty in accomplishing what is officially classified as

Finally, in the 50m freestyle, Mexico's Christopher Tronco, swimming in S-1 – the most disabled category – clocked 1:12.15.

(Swiminfo is indebted to USA Swimming's Dave Thomas, who compiled the list of records set.)(/i>)

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