BEIJING – Valérie Grand’Maison of Longueuil, Que., Kirby Cote of Winnipeg and Chelsea Gotell of Antigonish, N.S., finished 1-2-3 respectively in the women’s 100-metre butterfly for the visually impaired on Sunday to open the swimming competition at the Paralympic Games.
Grand’Maison clocked a Canadian record one minute and 06.49 seconds for the victory in her Games debut and was less than a second off the 12-year-old world record.
‘’I’m so happy, I’m speechless right now,’’ said Grand’Maison, 19, a quintuple gold medallist at the 2006 world championships. ‘’It’s a dream come true. Every single morning I have thought about winning Paralympic gold and it has now finally happen. And it was extra special to share the podium with my teammates. It’s a proud moment for us.’’
Cote was sixth at the turn but produced the fastest time on the second length to snare the silver.
‘’Despite the world getting faster, Canada is right up there,’’ said Cote, 24, a quintuple gold medallist at the 2004 Paralympics. ‘’This shows we can keep up.’’
Gotell also won in comeback style earning the fourth best time at the split.
‘’It’s the best feeling to be part of Canada’s first medals in swimming,’’ said Gotell, 22, a quadruple medallist in Athens. ‘’To be on the podium with Kirby and Val is an incredible feeling. We’ve been trying to be 1-2-3 since the last Paralympics and this is the first time it has happened in international competition.’’
In the women’s 100 butterfly in the S9 category, Stephanie Dixon of Victoria missed the podium by a mere 0.06 seconds bettering her Canadian record to 1:11.04 for fourth place. Natalie Du Toit of South Africa won the race in a world record 1:06.74.
‘’This was such an incredible race,’’ said Dixon, 24 now at 16 career Paralympic medals. ‘’It was a bit disappointing getting beaten at the finish but the whole experience was great with the building being packed and loud. You could feel the building shaking.’’
Drew Christensen of New Westminster, B.C., was sixth in the men’s 100 fly in the S8 category.
Canadian national team coach Craig McCord of Vancouver predicted the international swimming field would be deeper than ever.
‘’It is no surprise to see many countries reach the podium,’’ said McCord. ‘’It is clear after day one that nothing can be taken be granted and anyone with a lane can win a medal. We had a 70 percent best performance standard and our veterans performed with the savvy and our rookies performed beyond expectations.’’
Competition continues Monday.
Full results at: http://results.beijing2008.cn/WRMP/ENG/Schedule/index.shtml
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