LONDON, England, September 3. CHINA had the strongest night as a team, while Australia's Jacqueline Freney raced to her fourth and fifth gold medals during the fifth evening of competition at the 2012 London Paralympics. China continued to dominate the meet, running its overall medal lead to 32. Australia stands second with 23 medals in swimming.
Freney leads all swimmers so far this week with five medals, with all five being gold-medal victories. Belarus' Ihar Boki, USA's Jessica Long, Australia's Matthew Cowdrey and China's Yang Bozun, meanwhile, are tied for second with four medals each. Boki and Long, however, have each scored three golds and a silver thus far.
(Want some insight into the classification system at the Paralympics? Click here to read Jeff Commings' breakdown of the groupings.)
China's Xu Qing added another world-record and gold-medal performance to his nation's impressive haul this year. Xu raced to victory in 2:38.62 in the men's 200 IM SM6, cutting more than three seconds from the world record of 2:41.99 set by Great Britain's Sascha Kindred in April of 2011. Xu also lowered Kindred's Games record of 2:42.19 set at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. The win is Xu's first this week with the 50 free S6 up next tomorrow. Kindred earned silver with a 2:41.50, under his previous record and now the European standard. The medal is his first this year, as the 34-year-old veteran has been competing in the Paralympics since earning silver in the 100 breast SB7 back in 1996. He now has 12 career medals. China's Zheng Tao wound up third in 2:44.38, adding bronze to his gold medal in the 100 back S6 on the first night of swimming.
Local hero Ellie Simmonds of Great Britain earned a roaring ovation from the London Aquatics Center crowd as she reeled in Ukraine's Oksana Khrul down the freestyle leg after trailing my nearly 10 meters at the changeover to the breaststroke in the women's 200 IM SM6. Simmonds rocketed to a world record with a 3:05.39. This morning, Simmonds blasted her world record of 3:08.14 from Trials in March with a sterling time of 3:06.97. That swim also crushed the Games record of 3:13.05 set by Miranda Uhl in 2008. Tonight's victory gave Simmonds a second gold medal, along with her stunning world record in the 400 free S6 two days ago. Simmonds, who was born with achrondroplasia (dwarfism), now has four gold medals in her career. The London Aquatics Center has been special for Simmonds, as she became the first swimmer to break a world record in the pool during the British Trials in March. Germany's Verena Schott placed a distant second in 3:14.28, while Great Britain's Natalie Jones earned bronze in 3:14.29. Khrul, who dominated the initial three legs of the IM, faded to fourth in 3:17.10 during the freestyle finish.
China's Pan Shiyun used a powerful one-arm stroke to rattle the world and Games record in the men's 100 free S7 with an Asian record time of 1:00.57. That performance just missed the world record of 1:00.34 set by Great Britain's David Roberts in April of 2008, as well as his Games record of 1:00.35 from 2008. Pan now has two gold medals this week, adding the 100 to his 50 fly victory on the second night of competition. Australia's Matthew Levy turned in an Oceania record time of 1:01.38 to take silver, while USA's Lantz Lamback earned bronze in 1:01.50 for an American mark. Levy has amassed a serious haul this week thus far with four total medals. He was part of the winning 400 free relay 34 points, while taking bronze in the 200 IM SM7 and 100 breast SB7 events. Lamback, meanwhile, claimed his first medal of the week.
Australia's Jacqueline Freney captured her fourth Paralympic gold medal of the meet with a sterling time of 1:09.39. That effort downed the Games record of 1:11.82 set by legend Erin Popovich in 2008, while coming up shy of Freney's world record of 1:08.03 from March of this year. Freney has now won the 100 back S7, 50 fly S7 and 200 IM SM7 as well as her triumph this evening. In sum, Freney now has seven career medals, having already won a trio of bronzes in 2008. USA''s Cortney Jordan earned silver in 1:11.63, adding silver to her bronze from the 100 back S7 on the first evening. Great Britain's Susannah Rodgers rounded out the podium with a bronze-winning 1:12.61 — her first medal of the meet.
China's Yang Yang, using a backstroke variant, obliterated his world record from the morning in the men's 100 free S2 with a scorching time of 2:03.71. That swim bested the 2:10.47 Yang used this morning to clip the previous world and Games record of 2:10.48 set by Curtis Lovejoy of the U.S. back in 2000. Yang, just 15, has now won the 100 and 200 free gold medals this week. Russia's Dmitrii Kokarev placed 12.75 seconds behind with a silver-winning time of 2:16.46, his second silver behind Yang also taking second in the 200 free two nights ago. Greece's Aristeidis Makrodimitris snared bronze in 2:21.04.
The women's 100 free S3 world record witnessed a huge progression today. China's Xia Jiangbo first clocked a 1:49.01 in heat one to lower her May 2012 record of 1:49.42. Ukraine's Olga Sviderska then went over the top in heat two with a smoking fast time of 1:45.34. Xia reclaimed the world record in the finale with a scintillating time of 1:44.32, with Sviderska finishing well behind with a silver-winning time of 1:52.91. Mexico's Patricia Valle took bronze with a time of 1:59.76 to break the 2:00 barrier in the event. Additionally, Ukraine's Iryna Sotska competed in the heat, but under the S2 division, with a 2:35.66.
After an extended awards ceremony break, China returned to dominating this evening as Yang Bozun ripped off a world record in the men's 100 breast SB11 event. That swim eclipsed the previous world and Games record of 1:10.53 set by Ukraine's Oleksandr Mashchenko back in 2004. The triumph provided Yang his fourth medal of the meet. He already won the 50 free S11 two nights ago, and has a pair of silvers with runner-up finishes in the 100 free and 100 backstroke events. Japan's Keiichi Kimura finished second with a silver-winning time of 1:14.00, while Mashchenko snared bronze in 1:14.43, edging compatriot Viktor Smyrnov (1:14.75) for the podium spot. Mashchenko now has seven career Paralympic medals, including four golds spanning back to a victory in the 100 breast S11 in 2000.
Sweden's Maja Reichard cleared 1:28 to twice set the world record in the women's 100 breast SB11 today. Reichard first charted a 1:28.51 in prelims to undercut her December 2011 global mark of 1:28.89. This evening, she raced to victory in a time of 1:27.98 to establish the new world standard going forward. Reichard finally ascended to the podium after a pair of finals earlier in the week without hardware. Ukraine's Yana Berezhna claimed silver with a time of 1:29.99, while Argentina's Nadia Baez scored a bronze-winning time of 1:31.21.
Ukraine's Maksym Veraksa, the world-record holder with a 2:11.11 in the men's 200 IM SM12 in 2010, raced to a Games record 2:12.42 to win gold in the event. That performance cleared his previous mark of 2:12.71 set in 2008, and gave Veraksa his first medal of the meet. Veraksa now has five career Paralympic gold medals, having won four in 2008 along with a bronze in Beijing as well for six total medals now. Russia's Aleksandr Nevolin-Svetov placed two seconds behind for silver with a 2:14.45 as he edged compatriot Sergey Punko (2:14.83) for runner-up status. The silver is Nevolin-Svetov's first of the meet, while Punko has earned one medal of each color now this week. He won the 400 free, took second in the 100 fly and now placed third in the 200 IM this evening. Punko now has 13 career medals on his resume, with four of the gold variety.
Russia's Oxana Savchenko led a trio of swimmers under the world record in the women's 200 IM SM12 event. Savchenko captured the record and the Paralympic gold medal with a sizzling time of 2:28.00. That swim cut two seconds off the previous world and Games standard of 2:30.09 set by Zhu Hongyan back in 2004. The victory provided Savchenko with her second gold medal of the meet as she let out a scream of joy after winning the race. Azerbaijan's Natali Pronina collected the silver medal with a blistering time of 2:28.45, while Russia's Darya Stukalova also cleared the world record with a bronze-winning time of 2:28.73. Stukalova now has a pair of medals this week, having already taken silver in the 100 fly last night.
Belarus' Ihar Boki continued his mastery of the S13 division with a pair of world records in the men's 100 back today. First, Boki cleared his world record of 59.12 from July of last summer with a 58.19 in prelims. He then destroyed the mark with a stunning 56.97 to win the finale. The 18-year-old now has a brilliant four-medal haul this week with three golds (100 fly, 100 free, 100 back) and a silver (50 free). South Africa's Charl Bouwer turned in an African record time of 59.92 to win silver, while Greece's Charalampos Taiganidis, the previous Games-record holder with a 59.85 heading into this morning, took bronze with a 1:01.10.
Russia's Denis Tarasov cleared the world record in the men's 50 free S8 twice today. First, Tarasov shot to a 25.92 in prelims, lowering the previous world and Games record of 26.45 set by Wang Xiaofu in 2008. Tarasov then clipped a bit more off his newly-minted mark with a 25.82 to win the event, and claim his second medal of the meet. Tarasov earned bronze in the 400 free relay 34 points last night. The Netherlands' Maurice Deelen raced under the old world record with a second-place time of 26.29, while China's Wang Yinan checked in with an Asian record of 26.31, also under the previous world record.
The Netherlands' Michael Schoenmaker closed the gap down the final 10 meters with a winning time of 50.00 in the men's 50 breast SB3 finale. Spain's Miguel Luque finished a close second in 50.18, while defending champ and world-record holder Takayuki Suzuki of Japan snared bronze with a 50.26. The win is Schoenmaker's first of the meet, and he certainly celebrated with joy after the touchout triumph.
Freney closed out the night with her fifth Paralympic gold medal this week, and her eighth career medal overall, as the Australian foursome of Ellie Cole, Maddison Elliott, Katherine Downie and Freney threw down a scorching-fast time of 4:20.39. That performance downed the world record of 4:23.59 previously owned by the United States. Four seconds back, a battle brewed for the silver medal as Team USA's Susan Beth Scott, Victoria Arlen, Jessica Long and Anna Eames edged Great Britain's Stephanie Millward, Claire Cashmore, Susannah Rodgers and Louise Watkin, 4:24.57 to 4:24.71, for second place on the medal stand. Long now has four medals this week with a trio of golds earlier in the meet. Overall, Long has claimed 13 career Paralympic medals, including 10 golds.