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September 25, 2004

Stephanie Dixon takes turn in spotlight with gold

ATHENS - Swimming wrap-up: Stephanie Dixon takes turn in spotlight with gold in world record time

Stephanie Dixon of Victoria won a team leading sixth medal at the Paralympic Games on Saturday with a victory in world record time in a women’s 100-metre backstroke race.

Joining Dixon on the podium in swimming were Benoit Huot of Montreal, Kirby Cote of Winnipeg and Anne Polinario of Toronto, all with silver and Elisabeth Walker of St.Catharines, Ont., with bronze

In the women’s S9 100 backstroke, the 20-year-old Dixon, a leg amputee, clocked 1:10.01 to eclipse her previous world record of 1:10.49 set in 2001. Natalie DuToit of South Africa was second in 1:11.41. Dixon has also pocketed five silver medals and in four of those races she was beaten by DuToit.

“Like all my races I just try to keep my head in my own lane and not worry abut the others,” said Dixon 20, who won six medals at the Sydney Games. “Natalie is an amazing competitor but I didn’t want to let that psych me out. I wasn’t frustrated with her winning her other races because I was going personal best times. But this one is a little bit sweeter.”

Darda Geiger of Sarnia, Ont., was 12th.

In the men’s S10 100 backstroke, Justin Zook of the U.S., was the winner in 1:04.22 to edge Huot second in a personal best 1:04.30. It was Huot’s fifth medal of the Games.

“It was my best 100 backstroke ever so I’m happy,” said Huot, 20, also with four gold this week. “It’s an event I don’t practice as much so I’m actually a bit surprise with my time. I came very close to a fifth gold.”

Kirby Cote of Winnipeg was also denied a fifth gold finishing second in the women’s 100 breaststroke for the visually impaired. Karolina Pelendritou of Cyprus won the gold in 1:17.32 to edge Cote second in 1:17.34. Chelsey Gotell of Antigonish, N.S., was fourth in 1:25.84 and Rhea Schmidt of Winnipeg fifth in 1:26.53.

“It’s the first time I’m under 1:20 all year so I’m pleased,” said Cote, 20. “But if I had relaxed a bit more I could have come back harder. I didn’t realize how fast I was going on the first length.”

In the women’s S10 100 backstroke, Mikhaila Rutherford of the U.S., broke the world record for the win in 1:12.25. Polinario grabbed her third medal of the competition following up in a personal best 1:15.67.

“This is much better than expected,” said the Cuban-born Polinario, the 100 freestyle winner earlier this week. “It’s not an event that I focus on that much and I wasn’t sure I could win a medal.”

In the women’s S7 50 butterfly, Erin Popovich of the U.S., clocked a world record 37.37 for the win. Walker, competing at her fourth and last Games, won the bronze in a personal best 38.30 for her first medal this week and sixth in her career. Danielle Campo of Calgary was 11th.

“I couldn’t ask for more with a medal and best time,” said Walker, 27, in her last individual race at the Games. “It was incredible to leave on such a high note. I knew this morning that I had it in me.”

Other Canadian results: Brad Sales of Woodstock, Ont., and Andrew Haley of Toronto were fifth and ninth in a men’s 100 backstroke; visually impaired swimmers Donovan Tildesley of Vancouver and Jessica Tuomela of Waterloo, Ont., were fourth and sixth in their respective 100 backstroke races; Tyler Emmett of St. Catharines, Ont., also visually impaired, was ninth in a men’s 100 breaststroke.

Canada’s medal count in swimming now stands at 11 gold, 11 silver and 7 bronze.

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