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September 21, 2004

Canadian gold rush

Petitclerc wins again

ATHENS (CP) - Wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc set another world record at the Paralympic Games on Tuesday.

Petitclerc broke her own world record en route to a gold medal in the women's 100-metre wheelchair race.

Anne Polinario of Toronto also captured a gold medal in the women's 100-metre freestyle event for physically disabled swimmers.

Canada finished the day ninth in the medal standings with 12 medals overall (seven gold, three silver and two bronze). China was first with 50 medals (21-18-11), Germany second at 36 (9-10-17) and Britain third at 30 (14-7-9)

Canadian swimmers have won 11 medals (six gold, three silver and two bronze).

On the track, Petitclerc, a native of Montreal, finished in 16.33 seconds. She defeated Tatyana McFadden of the U.S., who won the silver in 16.69. Manuela Schaer of Switzerland was third in 16.93.

Petitclerc broke the world record she set during Monday's heats when she finished in 16.45 seconds. The previous mark of 16.59 was set by American Cheri Becerra in October 2000.

"All day I was visualizing and focusing on what I had to do to gain those little 10ths of a second," said Petitclerc.

Elsewhere, Canada hammered the Netherlands 9-0 in women's goalball.

In equestrian, Judi Island of Cheltenham, Ont., finished 11th. Her routine was delayed for more than an hour after a horse suffered a heart attack and died on the course. Island and her horse Whirlwind had just finished their warm-up when the incident occurred.

"Because of the delay, Whirlwind thought we were done," said Island. "Our warm-ups leading up to the competition had been great."

Petitclerc will race it the 800 final on Wednesday after winning her semifinal heat earlier Tuesday. Diane Roy of Hatley, Que., and Jessica Matassa of Oldcastle, Ont., also qualified.

While the sprints are her best events, the 34-year-old Petitclerc won the 800 metres last month at the Olympic Games, where the event was a demonstration sport, in an Olympic-record time of 1:53.66.

"In the 800, I did really well at the Olympics and I did really well this morning as well," she said. "I have a pretty good chance for a medal there as well but we'll see tomorrow."

Petitclerc is just getting started at the Games. In addition to the 800 final, she still has to race in the 200, 400 and 1,500.

Tuesday's gold was Petitclerc's 12th at her fourth Paralympics. But she says winning them hasn't become routine.

"I wake up in the morning and I have the same little butterflies," she said. "I get on the startline and I'm just excited to be there. I think what's changed is that I don't put pressure on myself anymore. I'm just here to give my best and have a good time on the track."

Polinario finished in 1:03.65 to capture the gold in the pool. Katarzyna Pawlik of Poland was second in 1:04.46 while Sarah Bailey of Great Britain took the bronze in 1:05.14.

"It's my first gold medal in any Paralympic Games," said Polinario, who took a couple years off after the Sydney Paralympics. "I was pretty happy. I had a bit of tears in my eyes. It was pretty emotional for sure."

Polinario is a native of Cuba whose father was on that country's national swim team while her mother was on the Cuban synchronized swimming team.


Reprinted with permission

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