Great Britain’s Alice Tai won her fourth gold medal in as many nights to end a ten-year winning streak of USA legend Jessica Long on day four of the London 2019 World Para Swimming Allianz Championships.
Long had been unbeatable in the women’s 400m freestyle S8 and looked set to seal another world title with Tai trailing at the halfway point of their latest epic final on Thursday.
But in a further sign of a changing of the guard in the women’s S8 class, the 20-year-old Brit turned on the gas in the second 200 metres to touch home 1.7 seconds ahead of the American in 4:49.01.
“I was so nervous before that race because Jess posted such a good time in the heats, so I knew I needed to pull it out of the bag,” Tai said.
“My plan was to just race her but at one point she was quite far ahead and I got scared. What the heck, I’m not a 400m swimmer so I’m just in shock.”
Despite Tai’s best efforts, Italy still top the London 2019 medals table going into day five after Arianna Talamona won double gold in the women’s 50m butterfly and 200m individual medley S5, on another action-packed day of racing.
Krawzow kickstarts Germany
After missing the podium by only 0.03 seconds on Wednesday, Elena Krawzow of Germany attacked from the outset in Thursday’s women’s 100m breaststroke SB12 final, winning her team’s first gold medal of London 2019 in a time of 1:13.62.
Minutes later teammate Taliso Engel became the first Para swimmer to deny Belarusian Ihar Boki a world championships gold medal since Glasgow 2015, when he won the men’s 100m breaststroke SB13 (1:05.20).
Verena Schott then confirmed Germany’s renaissance by overhauling world record holder Song Lingling of China in the final few metres of the women’s 100m backstroke S6.
“I’m really shocked,” Schott said after touching home for her team’s third gold of the night in 1:23.81.
“I only wanted to swim a personal best and maybe go fast enough to get third place. I saw the Chinese girls were really fast and then one of them was swimming next to me and I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to swim, swim, swim’.”
Less than 24 hours after being carried from the poolside on a stretcher, Aurelie Rivard of Canada ignored team advice and returned to the water on Thursday.
The triple Paralympic champion held off Dutch teenagers Chantalle Zijderveld and Lisa Kruger in the women’s 100m freestyle S10 and then revealed the full extent of her exertions in winning the previous night’s 400m freestyle final.
“I gave everything that I had left in that race,” Rivard said. “It was one of the most painful races of my life and when I got out of the water I couldn’t breathe, I had a little panic attack and my body didn’t survive this whole thing.
“I did everything that I could to recover last night and all day today. My team didn’t want me to swim but it was important to me that I didn’t leave the Worlds with that bad memory.”
In another of Thursday’s standout performances, Wang Lichao of China obliterated the world record in the men’s 50m butterfly S5 to win his third gold medal of the championships.
Swimming without arms, Wang nodded home in 31.52 - over 1.4 seconds inside his own previous world best mark, and 1.7 seconds ahead of the European record time set by Ukraine’s Yaroslav Semenenko in silver.
The Netherlands celebrated gold medals and world records in both of the 200m individual medley races in the SM11 class on Thursday.
Rogier Dorsman won the men’s event in a new best time of 2:22.02, moments before teammate Liesette Bruinsma came from behind to repeat the feat in the women’s race, lowering her own world record to 2:46.49.
“It was very, very hard but I wanted that gold medal,” Bruinsma said. “I didn’t have a world title before - I had the Paralympic and the European - and now it’s complete for me.”
Great Britain’s mixed 4 x 100m freestyle relay S14 team sent a home crowd including Mayor of London Sadiq Khan away happy by winning gold in a time 20 seconds quicker than the previous world record (3:42.21) to round off a thrilling, record-breaking night.
Live results, live streaming and athlete information can be found on the official London 2019 website.