BEIJING – Valérie Grand’Maison of Longueuil, Que., smashed her world record in the women’s 400-metre freestyle for visually impaired for her second gold medal in swimming competition on Monday at the Paralympic Games.
Grand’Maison, 19, clocked four minutes and 28.64 seconds to better the 4:32.51 she swam at the Beijing Trials in Montreal on April 1. She also qualified for the able-bodied national championships with that time.
‘’I couldn’t be happier,’’ said Grand’Maison, 19, a quintuple world champion making her Paralympic debut this year. ‘’This pool is perfect and the atmosphere is electric. It is so exciting to race here.’’
Initially there was a restart in the race when the start light for a deaf swimmer failed to turn on when the start buzzer sounded. The race was stopped after 60-metres and re-started about five minutes later.
‘’The restart was actually a good thing for me because it helped me calm down and relax,’’ said Grand’Maison. ‘’It didn’t frazzle me.’’
Gotell collected her second bronze of the competition bettering her personal best by 11 seconds.
‘’This is absolutely amazing,’’ she said. ‘’I stayed calm and focused after the restart and had a great race.’’
Canada’s third medal on the day was earned by veteran Stephanie Dixon of Victoria who took the bronze in the women’s 100 freestyle in the S9 category. Natalie Du Toit of South Africa took the gold in a Games record 1:01.44 followed by Louise Watkin of Britain in second in 1:03.85 and Dixon third in a Canadian record 1:03.89. Darda Sales of London, Ont., was eighth in 1:05.65.
‘’I’ve been chasing a best time in this event for six years,’’ said Dixon, who won eight medals at the 2004 Paralympic Games. ‘’I’m so excited. All the hard work I’ve put in over the last few years went into that race.’’
It was also a personal best for Sales.
‘’I’m happy with that swim, what more could I ask for,’’ said Sales. ‘’It was exciting to be in such a close race and the times just keep getting faster and faster. It’s also a thrill to see the venue just packed full of people.’’
After two days of competition Canadians swimmers have pocketed six medals (two gold, a silver and three bronze).
Other Canadian finalists for the women were Laura Jensen of Fort St.John, B.C., and Brianna Nelson of Calgary sixth and seventh respectively in the S7 100 freestyle.
On the men’s side, Benoit Huot of Longueuil was fourth in the S10 100 butterfly and Devin Gotell of Antigonish was seventh in the 400 freestyle for visually impaired.
Competition continues Tuesday.
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