Arlen defeats host nation’s poster girl

USA’s Victoria Arlen had a fitting end to her Paralympic debut, knocking off favourite Ellie Simmonds for gold in the 100m freestyle S6. 08 Sep 2012
Victoria Arlen

Victoria Arlen celebrates with Ellie Simmonds after securing gold at London 2012.


"When you look up (at the results), there is no feeling to describe it. I just wanted to go out there and give it my all."

It ended with a bang. 10 days, over 400 races, 139 world records and 148 gold medals after it began, the Paralympic swimming action drew to a dramatic conclusion with one of the most hotly anticipated rivalries of the whole competition – a transatlantic battle on Saturday evening (8 September)

Coming into her first Paralympic Games, Victoria Arlen was the world record holder in the 100m freestyle S6, an event which Ellie Simmonds has dominated since Beijing.

By the time her final race came around, she had three silver medals already around her neck and had beaten Simmonds, albeit to silver, but no gold.

Simmonds had won her country’s affections with two golds, one bronze and plenty of tears.

In their final race, the American took the lead from the start while Simmonds got off to her signature slow first length. At the turn, the Briton was in fourth place as the roar of the crowd tried to pull up up the order. She began to claw her way back into the race, but Arlen was too quick and touched home in yet another world record time, clocking in at 1:13.33.

"That was incredible,” said an exhausted Arlen after the race. “I don't even know how to react, I was in shock. When you look up (at the results), there is no feeling to describe it. I just wanted to go out there and give it my all."

Simmonds cited Arlen’s arrival into the Paralympics as reason for her own impressive times.

“She pushed me to my limit,” she said. “I've been pb-ing every time I've been swimming so I can't ask for any more.”

If the women’s 4x100m medley the day prior was the most dramatic race of the competition so far, the men’s wasn’t far behind.

China, who were third going into the final 100m, came back through Yinan Wang as he chased down Russia’s Denis Tarasov to snatch gold with a new relay world record. Russia claimed silver as Australia touched home half a second quicker than Ukraine to win the bronze.

Brazil’s Daniel Dias completed his clean sweep in the S5 class with six golds from six individual events. The 24-year-old now has 10 Paralympic gold medals, and with his home Paralympics up in four years time, expect to see a lot more of this Brazilian on top of the podium.

Possibly the most staggering result of the evening was that of China’s Bozun Yang. The 26-year-old broke a 20-year-old world record in the 200m individual medley SM11 final. Set by John Morgan at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games, Yang shaved fifty-seven hundredths of a second off his two-decade old time.

Russia’s Pavel Poltavtsev got the evening session off to a fine start as he knocked almost two seconds off the world record time in the 100m breaststroke SB9 event to touch home at 1:04.02 and beat favourite Kevin Paul into second.

Fallen favourites seemed to be a recurring theme with both New Zealand’s Sophie Pascoe, with six medals to her name, and Sarah Louise Rung missing out on gold. Pascoe was beaten to gold by Khrystyna Yurchenko, picking up her first medal of the games, in the 100m breaststroke SB9 while veteran Teresa Perales won the 100m freestyle S5, as Rung didn’t finish in a medal position.

Earlier in the day, China picked up their first medal of the evening as Qing Xu set a new Paralympic record in the men’s 100m freestyle S6 as Ukrainian Maksym Veraksa set a new world record in the 100m breaststroke SB12.

Elsewhere, Natali Pronina won Azerbaijan’s first gold medal in the pool as she smashed the world record in the 100m breaststroke SB12. Prue Watt won the women’s 100m breaststroke SB13 while Oleksii Fedyna set a new Paralympic record to win gold in the men’s equivalent.

There were also gold medals for Mary Fisher in the 200m individual medley SM11, Gustavo Sanchez Martinez in the 200m freestyle S4 and Byeong-Eon Min in the men’s 50m backstroke S3.

With seven world and eight Paralympic records broken, the final evening was a fitting way to end to an incredible 10 days.