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SWIMMING

September 18, 2004

Swimmer Kirby Cote wins Canada’s first medal

ATHENS- Swimmer Kirby Cote of Winnipeg won Canada’s first medal at the Paralympic Games on Sunday with a golden performance in the women’s 100-metre butterfly for the visually impaired.

The victory highlighted a great day for Canadian swimmers who earned four medals. Donovan Tildesley of Vancouver added silver in the men’s 400 freestyle, Stephanie Dixon of Victoria was also second in a women’s 100 butterfly and Andrea Cole of Thunder Bay, Ont., won bronze in another 100 butterfly.

In the women’s 100 butterfly for visually impaired, Cote clocked a Canadian record 1:07.44, a personal best by more than a second. That bettered the previous national mark of 1:07.48 set by Marie Claire Ross of London, Ont., in 1997.

"I was really nervous because going into it I was expecting a much closer race,’’ said Cote, 20, a double Paralympic champion in 2000. ‘’But once I dove right in, it was automatic for me. My goal here is to win all of my five races and this is the kind of start I needed.’’

Prue Watt of Australia was second in 1:08.41 and Rhiannon Henry of Britain third in 1:09.21. Chelsey Gotell of Antigonish, N.S., was fifth in 1:121.05

In the women’s 100 butterfly in the S9 category, Natalie du Toit of South Africa lowered her world record to 1:07.54 for the gold medal. Dixon, a leg amputee, broke a 12-year-old Canadian record clocking 1:12.01 while Kate Bailey of Australia was third in 1:16.61.

"I’m so happy,’’ said Dixon, 20, who won four gold medals at the 2000 Games and the beat previous national mark of 1:14.47 set by Joanna Mucz of Winnipeg at the 1992 Paralympics. ‘’I’ve been working a lot on my starts and that came through for me. I just made sure I kept focused on my lane. It’s a big challenge to catch Natalie but I’m very happy for and she’s really helping our sport.’’

In the men’s 400 freestyle for visually impaired, Viktor Smyrnov of the Ukraine fooled everybody by cruising to the gold in 4:44.79. Tildesley didn’t recover from a slow start and took the silver in 4:49.68 and Enhamed Mohamed of Spain was third in 5:01.64.

I had no idea Smyrnov could go that fast,’’ said Tildesley. "But he showed a lot of power in the final after a pretty slow preliminary. I was hoping for a gold but it’s a medal at the Paralympic Games and I couldn’t be happier. I went into it very focused and I knew I could do the job. I was ready.’’

In the women’s S8 100 butterfly, Immacolata Cerasuolo of Italy was the winner in 1:23.04 with Dora Pasztory of Hungary second in 1:23.85 and Cole, a double medallist in Sydney, third in 1:24.78. Elisabeth Walker of St. Catharines, Ont., was 11th.

Other Canadian results for the men: Andrew Haley of Toronto was seventh in the S9 100 butterfly, Brian Hill of Duncan, B.C., and Walter Wu of Richmond, B.C., tied for fourth in the men’s 100 butterfly for visually impaired and Adam Purdy of London, Ont., 10th in the S6 200 individual medley.

For the women, Walker was also sixth in the S7 200 IM.

Competition continues Monday.


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