Published: Aug 30, 2012 02:15:13 AM Updated: Nov 13, 2012 12:10:50 PM
Queenslander Jacqueline Freney has started her second Paralympic Games with a record in the women’s 100m backstroke (S7), sending a clear message to the rest of the world that she is here and ready to race.
A triple bronze medallist in Beijing, the 20-year-old swam a new personal best time of 1:22.34, less than a second off the world record to secure lane four for tonight’s final with one eye on a first Paralympic gold medal.
Staying with the field over the first 50m, Freney will swim eight events over the next 10 days and blitzed them in the second 50, with fellow Aussie Katrina Porter qualifying sixth for the final in 1:27.80.
“I love to race in that sort of atmosphere and it certainly gives me a lot of confidence for tonight, swimming that fast,” said Freney.
“It’s a two and a half second PB and a Paralympic record and I just wanted to go out easy over the first 50 and then really bring it home over the second lap. I’ve been preparing for this for eight long years and I just can’t wait for tonight.”
Joining Freney with a new personal best was the youngest member of the Australian Paralympic team, 13-year-old Maddison Elliott who moved into medal contention, with a massive PB in the women’s 100m butterfly (S8).
The Newcastle schoolgirl started her Paralympic campaign in style in 1:15.30, nearly five seconds better than her time of 1:20.06 at the Australian Championships in March.
Swimming in front of a full house, with every Team GB athlete cheered all the way to wall, Elliott said she is looking forward to hopefully going a little bit faster tonight.
“I have never experienced anything like that before the crowd was just amazing and it’s a privilege to be here,” said Elliott.
“That was a five second PB, at least I will count it as a five second PB, and hopefully if I can go a bit faster I can maybe win a bronze medal tonight.”
Brenden Hall and Matthew Cowdrey will also swim for a medal in the men’s 100m butterfly (S9) tonight with Hall qualifying 4th in 1:01.82 and Cowdrey 5th in 1:02.31. Getting a good hit out on the opening morning, both athletes said the two laps of fly was a good warm-up for some main events later in the meet.
“This is probably my second pet event behind the 400m freestyle later in the week, so to get a spot in the final is good and we’ll just see what happens tonight,” said Hall.
For Cowdrey, who is looking to etch his name into Paralympic history over the next eight days, the fly is always a blow out and good swim to get rid of any nerves.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to jag a medal tonight but it’s always good to get the first swim out of the way and it’s good having this event first up.”
Fellow Aussie Michael Auprince was just outside his best in the same event, to miss the final in 1:05.33.
In the men’s 100m backstroke (S6) Matthew Haanappel (1:24.02) qualified seventh for tonight’s finale while Aaron Rhind (1:25.36) will swim from lane 8. Seventeen-year-old Regan Wickens missed out on a place in the final, despite swimming a personal best time of 1:32.94, more than a second off his previous best.
Swimming in his pet event on the opening morning, and the same event in which he won gold in Beijing, Rick Pendleton qualified fourth for the final of the men’s 200m IM (SM10). Hitting the wall around a second outside his best in 2:17.17, the three-time Paralympian will be keen to drop at least a second and a half in tonight’s final.
The women’s 200m IM (SM10) heats saw Kat Downie also go through as the fourth fastest for tonight’s final in a time of 2:35.21. Swimming at her first Paralympic Games, Downie will compete in seven events throughout the meet and look to start with a medal tonight.
Beijing silver medallist Ellie Cole started her Games with the women’s 100m butterfly (S9) to qualify eighth for tonight’s final in a time of 1:14.37. With more ten family and friends watching on from the stands tonight, the 21-year-old will be keen for a podium finish in the final.
In the final swim of the morning, Cairns local Grant Patterson made his first Paralympic final qualifying eight fastest in the men’s 40m breaststroke (SB2) in a time of 1:05.86. Scooter will need to drop a second or more from his best to be in contention tonight, but is confident the swim will be a good grounding for his IM later in the meet.
Tonight’s finals action starts at 1730 (2:30am AEST) with 15 gold medals up for grabs.
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