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September 13, 2008

Canada's Dixon wins first Paralympic gold

Stephanie Dixon travelled to Beijing as one of the most decorated Canadian athletes ever to compete at the Paralympic Games. During the previous two Olympics, the Victoria resident won a total 13 medals, including six golds.

And while the 24-year-old swimmer found success in the pool early on by winning a pair of silver medals and a bronze in Beijing, the top of the podium had eluded her through six days of competition.

But all that changed on Saturday as Dixon broke her own world record to win gold in the women's 100-metre backstroke S9 disability category. Dixon clocked a time of one minute 9.30 seconds, eclipsing the mark of 1:09.61 she set in 2006 at the world championships in South Africa.

"[The record] is the cherry on top," said Dixon, who dedicated her win to her coach Ron Jacks.

"I've been defending this title for a long time, but this world record means more to me now because the field is so much stronger."

American Elizabeth Stone took the silver in 1:11.16, and Ellie Cole of Australia was third in 1:11.87.

Meanwhile, Dean Bergeron of St-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Que., earned Canada another gold medal, winning the men's 100 T52 for wheelchair track athletes in a Paralympic record of 17.47 seconds.

It was the third medal of the Games for Bergeron, who also won gold in the 200 and a bronze in the 400 earlier in the week.

"It was a very close race," said Bergeron, a 38-year-old actuary for Desjardins. "I had an average start and relied on my acceleration."

Montreal's Andre Beaudoin joined Bergeron on the podium after finishing third in 17.77. Beat Bosch of Switzerland was second in 17.51.

Beaudoin collected his first medal of the Paralympics and his sixth during the past three Games.

"This was my last opportunity to win a medal at these Games and I really wanted to get on the podium," said Beaudoin.

Tingley wins gold in sailing
Halifax sailor Paul Tingley captured a gold medal after pulling away from the field to win the one-person keelboat (2.4mR) event.

Tingley beat 2004 Paralympic Games champion Damien Seguin of France, and bronze medallist Thierry Schmitter from the Netherlands.

“First I want to say I love China, and I love sailing in Qingdao,” said a shocked Tingley. “I’ve never won anything this big before. I knew whoever won the last race was probably going to win the regatta. I had to make a hard choice in the last race whether to go left or right. I chose right and thankfully the wind filled in on that side.”

In the two-person keelboat (SKUD 18) competition, Victoria sailors Stacie Louttit and John McRoberts earned bronze.

“We were sitting in second place by one point at the start of the day,” said Louttit. “We got a third and fourth today, but Australia was just that much better [they won race nine and came second in race 10],” Louttit said, “We were pretty consistent during this whole regatta, which was the key for us to get the bronze.”

Another pair of Victoria competitors, Ken Kelly and Marc Shaw, finished 11th in the 3P keelboat (sonar) event.

Canada's medal tally now stands at 34 — 12 gold, seven silver, 15 bronze. Host China has a commanding lead in the medal standings with 130, including 49 golds.

Whyte missed podium
Shauna Whyte of Hinton, Alta., couldn't quite reach the podium, finishing fourth in the women's individual road cycling for athletes with complete loss of trunk and lower limb function.

"It was a really good race and I worked really hard for that fourth place," said Whyte. "I don't think I was the strongest rider in that group but I had the best sprint at the end."

Pistorius continues to roll
Double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius of South Africa captured his second gold medal of the Games, winning the men's 200 T44 for wheelchair track athletes.

Pistorius, 21, who also won gold in the 100, is already looking forward to his race in the 400 on Tuesday.

"It's just a different distance, but I will still be myself," Pistorius said.

Petitclerc primed for another gold
In the women's 800 T54 heats, 10-time gold medallist Chantal Petitclerc of Montreal finished as the top qualifier by lowering her Paralympic Games record to 1:50.51.

Diane Roy of Hatley, Que., also qualified for the final with a second-place showing in her heat.

Jessica Matassa of Windsor, Ont., failed to advance to the final.

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