Paralympic Games (Day 9 Women): Team USA Cruises to Medley Relay Title; 28th Medal For Jessica Long

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Paralympic Games (Day 9 Women): Team USA Cruises to Medley Relay Title; 28th Medal For Jessica Long

The United States quartet of Hannah Aspden, Mikaela Jenkins, Jessica Long and Morgan Stickney capped the ninth night of action at the Paralympic Games with a gold medal in the 400-meter medley relay. The American squad recorded a time of 4:52.40 to secure victory by more than three seconds over Russia. The bronze medal went to Australia.

Each of the members of Team USA had previously won an individual title at the Tokyo Games and the athletes came through as a team. Aspden led off with a backstroke split of 1:10.04 and was followed by Jenkins’ breaststroke leg of 1:24.52. Long handled the butterfly duties in 1:09.86 and Stickney anchored on freestyle with an effort of 1:07.98.

In addition to the swimmers adding relay gold to their prior solo performances, Long earned the 28th medal of her Paralympic career, which spans five Games. It was her 15th gold medal.

“We did everything in our power and control to be the best we could be, and the outcome speaks for itself,” Long said. “There was this really powerful look between each of us, that we knew we could do it and we didn’t even have to say anything. We just (had) a look with each other and a nod. We know what we’re capable of, and we proved it out in the pool today.”

Hungarian Zsofia Konkoly picked up gold in the S9 100 butterfly, as her time of 1:06.55 was a Paralympic Games record and held off the 1:08.22 of American Lizzie Smith. Fourth at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Smith was third at the midway point of the race and moved into the silver-medal position over the last 50 meters.

“My coach and I talk about the Yin and Yang,” Smith said. “You’ve got to be nervous, and you’ve got to be excited. But the excited needs to lead the way and excited led the way today. In Rio, I was terrified. I remember right before I walked out (onto the pool deck) wanting to turn around and run away. This time I was able to focus on my breathing and my tempo. I was excited. It was fun.”

A Hungarian swimmer also prevailed in the S10 100 backstroke, where Bianka Pap posted a time of 1:06.70 to finish ahead of Canadian Aurelie Rivard (1:08.94) and the Netherlands’ Lisa Kruger (1:09.44). The silver medal for Rivard marked her 10th Paralympic podium finish.

“The medal was unexpected,” Rivard said. “I was aiming for a podium. I’m really happy to have gotten silver. The race was awesome. I finished really well. I’m really pleased with the way that I raced even though I had no idea where I was in the field until I touched the wall.”

Great Britain’s Bethany Firth and Jessica-Jane Applegate each made the medals stand in the S14 100 backstroke, with Firth winning in 1:05.92. Valeriia Shabalina of Russia was the silver medalist, almost a second back of Firth, who won the event for the third straight Games. She was also the titlist in London and Rio.

“I’m so glad I could come out and do it,” Firth said. “I just wish the family and support system were here to do it with me, because I wouldn’t be here without them. Swimming is my happy place. When that got taken away during lockdown, I really struggled and I needed my family, my church and my coach. They all bailed me out from the bottom, so just to be here and to show them all their hard work, I can’t wait to see them.”

Australia’s Rachael Watson bested the field in the S4 50 freestyle behind a time of 39.36, with the silver medal going to Italy’s Arjola Trimi in 40.32, which was an S3 classification world record. In the S6 400 freestyle, China’s Jiang Yuyan destroyed the world record with a time of 5:04.57, an effort that bettered the previous standard by more than eight seconds. Silver medalist Yelyzaveta Mereshko also beat the former world record. In other action, Singapore’s Yip Pin Xiu won the S2 50 backstroke.

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