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The Paralympics New Zealand Swim Team has started with a strong day of results at the Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships in Edmonton, Canada.
With just over a year out from the London 2012 Paralympic Games, 190 top swimmers from 14 countries, are competing in the event which runs over the next 5 days. The Pan Pacific Championships are the New Zealand athletes’ pinnacle event for 2011 and represent a significant step in the journey to qualification and selection for the Paralympic Games next year.
Auckland’s Rebecca Dubber’s 400m Freestyle in the S7 classification was the highlight of a very successful opening night of the competition for the New Zealand team.
Faced with opposition of the highest calibre, world number one Mallory Weggeman and third ranked Cortney Jordan, both of USA, Dubber had a tough ask in an event that is not her favoured distance.
Dubber’s target was to build on the solid platform of her qualification swim and increase her stroke rate this would give her enough energy to really attack the final 50 metres of the final. She executed her plan perfectly to swim down the fast starting, Jordan in the final 25 metres to touch in silver medal position in a personal best time of 5:26.26, the 3rd fastest time in the world for women’s S7 400 metre freestyle this year.
It was New Zealand’s first medal of the meet and has set the whole team up for a great first day of competition.
Following on from Dubber’s swim New Zealand had three other 400m finalists. Sophie Pascoe of Christchurch recorded a personal best of 4:49.37 to take the S10 silver. In the S11 classification Aine Kelly-Costello (of Auckland) in her first senior International meet also claimed a silver medal with a 5 second personal best of 6:00.71
Mary Fisher (of Wellington) (S12) completed a full set of silver medals for the New Zealand 400m women with her swim of 4:25.85.
In the 50 metre freestyle the New Zealand women also had an outstanding night. The youngest member of the team, 12 year old Nikita Howarth of Cambridge swim club and Bryall McPherson of Laser Mt Eden swim club, both competing in their first senior international meet, each finished 7th in their respective S7 and S8 classifications. Mary Fisher’s second final of the night saw her take 7th place in the S12 class. Two personal best swims from Sophie Pascoe (S10) and Aine Kelly-Costello (S11) saw them double their personal medal tally, both taking silver in their 50 metre freestyle, 29.29 and 35.09 respectively.
The only male swim of the day was from Daniel Holt (S13) who recorded a personal best in the 100m butterfly in both the heat and then again in the final against a truly world class field to finish 4th, his final time 1:05.26, a 3 second improvement from his original event entry time.
The day ended with 9 finals which resulted in 6 silver medals and 6 personal best times for the Paralympics New Zealand Team.
WHAT IS CLASSIFICATION?
Classification is a structure for competition. Paralympic athletes have an impairment in body structures and functions that leads to a competitive disadvantage in sport. Consequently, criteria are put in place to ensure that winning is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus, the same factors that account for success in sport for athletes who are able-bodied. Athletes are grouped in classes defined by the degree of function related to the impairment and/or specific to the tasks in the sport.