Disabled Swimmers of the Year: Jessica Long and Wang Xiaofu

By Jason Marsteller

PHOENIX, Arizona, December 11. WITH the eyes of the world-wide Paralympic swimming community fixed firmly on Durban, South Africa – the site of this year's International Paralympics Committee Swimming World Championships held from Dec. 2-8, a pair of swimmers shined far greater than any other. Both USA's Jessica Long and China's Wang Xiaofu represented themselves well to the tune of five world records each. Because of this effort, both Long and Xiaofu claimed Swimming World Magazine's Disabled Swimmers of the Year honors.

Competing in the S8 division, Long brought home global standards in the 100 free (1:07.03), 400 free (4:53.14), 100 fly (1:13.25) and 200 IM (2:43.60) as well as swimming on the 34-point American 400 free relay world-record team of Ashley Owens, April Kerley, Long and last year's Disabled Swimmer of the Year Erin Popovich. Additionally, Long snared nine gold medals at the event.

Earlier in the year, Long claimed the Disability Swimmer of the Year award from United States Aquatics Sports after earning the Women's Sports Foundation's Sportswoman of the Year accolade in August. Also in August, Long set five national records at the 2006 U.S. Paralympics National Championships when she lowered the 100 free (1:08.54), 400 free (5:06.41), 100 back (1:24.56), 100 fly (1:16.88) and the 200 IM (2:48.46) standards in San Antonio, Texas.

In the same S8 division, Xiaofu set world records in the 50 free (26.83), 100 free (57.74), 400 free (4:33.37), 100 fly (1:01.53) and 200 IM (2:25.74) at the IPC Swimming World Championships. He finished the meet with five gold medals and one silver.

In the past, Xiaofu has voiced his desire to be the Phelps of the Paralympic movement. With Michael Phelps winning this year's World Swimmer of the Year, it looks like Xiaofu has matched him in the Paralympic community.

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