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September 8, 2008

Grand'Maison smashes world record

Canadian Valérie Grand'Maison continued her terrific start to the Beijing Paralympics by winning her second gold medal of the competition in the women's 400-metre freestyle for the S13 visually impaired on Monday.

Grand'Maison, who won the 100 butterfly Sunday, smashed the world record with a time of four minutes 28.64 seconds.

The Montreal swimmer was dominant in the race as she easily outdistanced Russian Anna Efimenko by 8.73 seconds. Canada's Chelsey Gotell and American Kelley Becherer both earned a bronze medals after touching the wall in 4:37.50.

Grand'Maison, 19, who began losing her eyesight at 12 due to macular degeneration, trains with the CAMO club at Claude Robillard Centre.

The rising star exploded onto the international scene over the last two years and now owns five world records in 100, 200, 400 and 800 freestyle events, plus the 400 individual medley.

Victoria's Dixon swims to bronze, du Toit breaks Paralympic record
In the women's 100 freestyle for the S9 athletes with a physical disability, Victoria resident Stephanie Dixon won her 14th career Paralympic medal following a bronze-medal effort in a time of 1:03.89.

South African sensation Natalie du Toit won gold by setting a Paralympic record of 1:01.44, while Great Britain's Louise Watkin swam to silver in 1:03.85.

Dixon is one of the most decorated Canadian athletes ever to compete at the Paralympic Games. Prior to the Beijing Games, she won 13 medals, including six golds. Despite being born with one leg, she began competing against able-bodied athletes at 13, and made Canada's national team for swimmers with a disability a year later.

Du Toit, who won five gold medals and a silver at the Athens Paralympics, is one of the more amazing stories at the Games. A motorcycle accident in 2001 forced amputation of her left leg at the knee. However, that didn't stop the 28-year-old swimmer from finishing 16th in the women's 10-kilometre marathon at the Beijing Olympics that ended Aug. 24.


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