LONDON, England, September 7. IT felt like 2008 all over again, but this time it was Australian Jacqueline Freney securing her Phelpsian eighth gold medal at the 2012 London Paralympics. Trailing nearly seven seconds heading into the anchor leg of the women's 400 medley relay 34 points, Freney put together a stunning Jason Lezak, Yannick Agnel-like anchor as Australia clipped Great Britain at the finish.
The Aussie foursome of Ellie Cole, Katherine Downie, Annabelle Williams and Freney raced to an Oceania record of 4:53.95 for Freney's eighth gold of the meet, just knocking off Great Britain's Heather Frederiksen, Claire Cashmore, Stephanie Millward and Louise Watkin. The British quartet finished just .03 seconds behind with a 4:53.98. The U.S. squad of Susan Beth Scott, Anna Johannes, Jessica Long and Mallory Weggemann earned bronze with an American-record time of 4:54.13. Notably, Long also has won eight medals this week with five golds, two silvers and this evening's bronze.
China holds the team medal lead with 53 including 21 golds. The U.S. and Russia are tied for second with 38 medals each, with the U.S. leading in golds 13-11. Great Britain has 37 medals, while Ukraine (36) and Australia (35) also have more than 30 medals each.
Freney leads all swimmers with eight golds, while Long matches the total tally with her eight as well. Matthew Cowdrey stands second with seven medals (five gold, two silver), while Ihar Boki and Ellie Cole each have five medals.
(Want some insight into the classification system at the Paralympics? Click here to read Jeff Commings' breakdown of the groupings.)
Australia's Matthew Cowdrey had some serious competition in the men's 100 free S9 as Hungary's Tamas Toth gave him a run for his money. Cowdrey, however, had enough in the tank to secure his 13th gold medal and 21st career Paralympics medal with a sterling 55.84. That swim fell half-a-second shy of his world and Games record of 55.30 from 2008, as he threepeated the event. Toth, meanwhile, placed second with a 56.46 with compatriot Tamas Sors finishing third in 56.69. The finish is Toth's second silver of the meet, while Sors secured his third medal of the meet with one of each color.
Australia's Ellie Cole upset South African Paralympic legend Natalie Du Toit in Du Toit's final career swim. Cole topped Du Toit, 1:02.77 to 1:03.45, in the women's 100 free S9 event. The triumph gave Cole her fifth medal of the meet with three golds and two bronzes including wins in the 100 back, 100 free and 400 free relay 34 points. Du Toit, meanwhile, completed her career with an inspiring 15 medals, 13 of which were gold including four medals this week. Spain's Sarai Gascon completed the podium with a bronze-winning time of 1:03.62, while China's Lin Ping lowered the Asian record with a fourth-place 1:04.27.
On the one-year anniversary of the IED blast that took his eyesight, Navy Lieutenant Brad Snyder dominated the men's 400 free S11 event with a time of 4:32.41 — his second gold medal of the meet, and his third overall. Snyder won by more than five seconds as Spain's Enhamed Enhamed claimed silver in a European mark of 4:38.24. Enhamed picked up his third medal of the meet, two silvers and a bronze, and pushed his career tally to seven after earning four golds in 2008. China's Yang Bozun downed the Asian record with a 4:41.73, his fifth medal of the meet (two golds, two silvers, a bronze).
After blasting a time of 5:11.32 to set the Games record in prelims, Germany's Daniela Schulte did enough in finals to earn the Paralympic gold in the women's 400 free S11. She clocked a time of 5:14.36 for the win — her first of the week. Canada's Amber Thomas raced to second in 5:15.48, while Italy's Cecilia Camellini, who initially lowered the Games record with a 5:25.70 in prelims to best the 5:31.34 used by Magdalena Tjernberg of Sweden back in 1988, wound up with bronze in 5:20.27. Camellini now has four medals this week, two golds and two bronzes.
China's Xu Qing became the first man under 30 seconds in the men's 50 fly S9 with a blazing fast time of 29.90, edging teammate Zheng Tao's 30.27 for the victory. Both times undercut Xu's world and Games record of 30.79 set in2008. The win is Xu's third of the week with triumphs in the 200 IM and 50 free. Zheng, meanwhile, snared his fourth medal of the week with a gold, a silver and two bronzes. Japan's Kyosuke Oyama rounded out the podium with a bronze-winning 31.43, while British Paralympic legend Sascha Kindred drew a disqualification in his attempt at a 12th career medal spanning back to 1996.
Ukraine's Oksana Khrul blasted her world record of 36.96 set during prelims with a 36.05 to conquer the women's 50 fly S6 this evening. Her prelims time smashed the previous global and Games record of 38.44 set by Jiang Fuying in 2008. Khrul, 17, earned her second medal and her first gold after taking second in the 100 breast. China's Lu Dong (37.65) and Jiang (39.26) completed the podium with their efforts.
China's Yang Yang claimed his fourth gold medal of the meet with a 1:01.39 in the men's 50 free S2 event. He also won the 100 free, 200 free and 50 back earlier in the week. Yang had enough in his tank to win the title tonight, not needing to come close to his world record of 59.20 set at the 50 split of his 100 free triumph. Russia's Dmitrii Kokarev took home silver with a 1:02.47, while Greece's Aristeidis Makrodimitris placed third in 1:04.86.
In one of the closest finishes of the week, China's Xia Jiangbo edged Ukraine's Olga Sviderska, 48.11 to 48.39, as the duo both cleared the world record of 49.57 set by Xia during her 100 free swim earlier in the week. The win is Xia's second of the week, while Sviderska placed second to Xia in both swims. Mexico's Patricia Valle clocked a 55.72 to earn bronze.
In another close contest, Brazil's Daniel Dias beat USA's Roy Perkins to the wall in the men's 50 fly S5 with a world-record time of 34.15. That performance eclipsed Dias' August 2010 global mark of 34.33, and produced a fifth gold medal for Dias this week with a chance at seven with a pair of swims tomorrow. Perkins, meanwhile, earned silver with a 34.57, his third medal of the meet. China's He Junquan claimed bronze in 37.20. Darko Duric downed the world record in the men's 50 fly S4 division with a 40.48 in the finale.
Norway's Sarah Louise Rung triumphed in the women's 50 fly S5 with a 41.76, clinching her second gold medal and fourth medal overall this week. Spain's Teresa Perales placed second with a time of 42.67, while Brazil's Joana Maria Silva turned in a bronze-winning performance of 46.62. Notably, China's Wu Qi finished fifth with an Asian record 47.51.
The close calls continued in the men's 50 free S12 as Ukraine's Maksym Veraksa nipped Russia's Aleksandr Nevolin-Svetov, 23.60 to 23.96, for his third gold medal of the week. Nevolin-Svetov, meanwhile, earned his fourth medal of the meet with a gold and three silvers. USA's Tucker Dupree collected an American record with a bronze-winning time of 24.37. He now has three medals this week with a silver and two bronzes.
Oxana Savchenko of Russia captured her fifth gold medal of the meet with a world-record time of 26.90 in the women's 50 free S12. Her time clipped her previous global mark of 26.96 set in August 2010, and went with her other victories in the 400 free, 200 IM, 100 free and 100 back this week. Azerbaijan's Natali Pronina placed second with a silver-winning 27.54 for her fourth silver of the week, while Russia's Darya Stukalova wound up with bronze in 27.75.
Belarus' Ihar Boki returned to action with a vengeance after some time off midweek. This morning, he bettered his world record of 2:10.75 with a 2:09.89 in prelims. Boki then came back in the finale with a scorching fast time of 2:06.30 to clinch his sixth medal and fifth gold of the week. Russia's Roman Dubovoy earned silver in 2:10.16, while Ukraine's Danylo Chufarov snagged bronze in 2:10.22 in a close battle for runner-up status.
Canada's Valerie Grand-Maison earned her first gold of the week, and ninth career Paralympic medal with a world-record 2:27.64 in the women's 200 IM SM13 this evening. That performance surpassed the 2:28.15 set by compatriot Chelsey Gotell in 2008. USA went 2-3 to complete the podium as Rebecca Meyers (2:30.13) and Kelley Becherer (2:30.36) had a close call for second.