Two new world records for Chinese swimmers were the highlights of the heats at the Aquatics Stadium at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on Friday (9 September), as a series of rivalries also came to the fore to set up a thrilling finals session.
China’s Liankang Zou (1:58.29) set a new world record in the first heat of the men’s 100m backstroke S2, only to lose it just minutes later to teammate Benying Liu (1:50.67).
Liu leads Ukrainian world champion Serhii Palamarchuk (1:51.23) and Zou into Friday (9 September) evening’s final. Palamarchuk’s time was also a new European record.
New Zealand’s multiple Paralympic medallist Sophie Pascoe looked to have returned to some of her best form in the women’s 50m freestyle S10, setting a new Paralympic Games best of 27.95.
However, Canada’s world champion Aurelie Rivard (27.83) hit back in the next heat, shaving a further 0.12 seconds off her rival’s time.
“My goal this morning was just to swim and qualify as high as I can, first or second. So breaking the Paralympic record is over my expectations,” Rivard said. “It's amazing. It's really good for my mindset for the final, because I didn't go really hard. I could go a lot harder than that.
“We [Pascoe and I] actually fist bump before the race, like 30 seconds before we walk out. We did at the World's last year and today as well because we have to remind each other that it's still just a game.”
China’s Yi Chen (28.20) qualified third with a new Asian record.
There were two European records in the men’s 50m freestyle S10. Ukraine’s Denys Dubrov (24.01) lowered the mark in heat one, followed by compatriot Maksym Krypak (23.45) in heat three. Krypak and Dubrov were the top two, followed by Brazil’s Phelipe Rodrigues (24.07). His world and Paralympic champion teammate Andre Brasil also qualified.
“I don't know what to expect but I will give the best that I can do,” Brasil said. “I'm not as young as the other guys but I'm trying to be fast. I'm trying to be strong. I'm so happy. It's the best moment in my life. I'm so grateful that I can just show what I have being doing over 10 years of my career to my people and my family.”
China continued their dominance in the pool with a further two fastest qualifiers.
Lichao Wang (30.89) and world champion Tao Zheng (31.25) qualified as the top two in the men’s 50m butterfly S6.
Great Britain’s Sascha Kindred (32.76), who is celebrating 20 years since he made his Paralympic debut, also went through.
In the men’s 100m butterfly S8, Haijiao Xu (1:01.01) and Guanglong Yang (1:01.02) set up a close final. French Paralympic champion Charles Rozoy (1:01.15) followed closely behind.
New Zealand’s world champion Mary Fisher became the Paralympic and Oceanian record holder in the women’s 100m backstroke S11 with a time of 1:18.68.
She edged China’s Liwen Kai (1:20.59) and Ukraine’s Maryna Piddubna (1:21.81).
“I was just really happy to have a strong heat swim and I’m so happy with the time,” Fisher said. “It’s probably the strongest strokes that I’ve ever done so I’m just hoping that I can repeat it tonight and if I go a little bit faster, the world record is really close.”
The USA’s McKenzie Coan (32.57) set a new Paralympic record in the women’s 50m freestyle S7, claiming the mark of Australia’s Jacqueline Freney from London 2012. Germany’s Denise Grahl (33.28) lowered the European record as Coan’s teammate Cortney Jordan (34.07) completed the top three. China’s Yajing Huang (34.50) claimed the Asian record to also qualify.
The Brazilian team of Talisson Glock, Patricia Pereira Dos Santos, Susana Ribeiro and Clodoaldo Silva could bring the house down again this evening, qualifying second fastest in the mixed 4x50m relay 20 points.
The Brazilians are the world champions and if they win gold, they will be the first to do so as the event is new to the programme.
Australia had a great morning in the pool, with three of their swimmers qualifying fastest.
Defending champion Brendan Hall (4:20.46) went quickest in the men’s 400m freestyle S9. Great Britain’s Jonathan Booth (4:24.86) was second, followed by Kristijan Vincetic (4:27.87), who is going for Croatia’s first swimming medal.
Paralympic and World Championships bronze medallist Matthew Levy (28.55) went quickest in the men’s 50m freestyle S7. Colombia’s Carlos Serrano (28.87) and China’s Jingang Wang (28.89) were second and third respectively.
Ellie Cole (4:50.19), looking to improve on her bronze medal from London 2012, led the women’s 400m freestyle S8 heats. China’s Jianling Xu (4:51.19) was second with a new Asian record, and the Netherlands’ Manon Vermarien (4:53.26) third.
Great Britain’s Ellie Robinson (36.62) led the women’s 50m butterfly S6 heats on her Paralympic debut. The 15-year-old will take on Ukrainian world and Paralympic title holder Oksana Khrul (37.16) in the final. Australia’s Tiffany Thomas Kane (37.81), also 15, is the new Oceanian record holder with her third fastest time.
Poland’s Worlds bronze medallist Wojciech Makowski (1:09.40) will take on Australia’s Jeremy McClure (1:09.79) in the finals of the men’s 100m backstroke S11. China’s Bozun Yang (1:10.40), the silver medallist from four years ago, was third quickest.
Ukraine’s Paralympic and Worlds silver medallist Kateryna Istomina (1:10.36) led the women’s 100m butterfly S8. The USA’s defending champion Jessica Long (1:11.56) will go for her second medal in as many days as the next fastest qualifier. China’s Weiyuan Yu (1:12.29) completed the top three.
Live coverage and results of swimming is available at Paralympic.org. Live updates will also be posted to IPC Swimming’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.