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September 8, 2008

Grand'Maison leads Canadian sweep in women's butterfly

Montreal star gets country off to a good start in Beijing

Valérie Grand'Maison got Canada off to a flying start at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing with a gold medal to lead a sweep of the podium in women's 100-metre butterfly for S13 visually impaired.

The rising Montreal star was followed to the wall by Kirby Côté of Winnipeg and Chelsey Gottell of Antigonish, N.S., in the silver and bronze positions at the Water Cube.

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

She has 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.

"I'm so happy. I'm speechless right now," said Grand'Maison, who won five gold medals at the 2006 world championships. "It's a dream come true."

"Every single morning I have thought about winning Paralympic gold and it has now finally happened. And it was extra special to share the podium with my teammates."

Trailing Côté at the 50-metre turn, Grand'Maison burst to the lead down the stretch, winning by 0.13 seconds.

Côté, who won five gold medals at Athens in 2004 and has seven golds in the last two Games, has a lot of swimming still to come.

"Despite the world getting faster, Canada is right up there," Côté said. "This shows we can keep up."

Bronze in cycling
Over at the Laoshan Velodrome, Jean Quevillon of Ste-Adèle, Que., finished third in the men's individual pursuit 1,000 metres for CP3 (cerebral palsy), taking the bronze in a head-to-head battle with Maurice far Eckhard of Spain.

British world record holder Darren Kenny won the gold over Yong-Sik Jin of Korea, who earned the silver.

"It's been about 10 years since I won a major international medal on the track so I hit the jackpot today," said Quevillon, 45. "I gave everything I had in that match [for the bronze] and I was a lot stronger."

With four medals on Day 1, Canada sits eighth overall.




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