London 2019: USA’s Julia Gaffney gorges on gold at last
Rising star finally breaks through for win by slimmest of margins14 Sep 2019
Julia Gaffney won the women’s 200m individual medley SM7 at London 2019
By Amp Media | For World Para Swimming
Julia Gaffney set aside the anguish of six near misses to finally win her first major title by the narrowest of margins at the London 2019 World Para Swimming Allianz Championships on Friday.
The US rising star touched home only 0.02 seconds ahead of Canada’s Tess Routliffe in the women’s 200m individual medley SM7 to end a run of silver medals, which had begun at the Mexico 2017 World Championships and continued into her first race in London on Monday.
“I’m a world champion now and it feels so good,” Gaffney said moments after clocking 2:55.98 and slapping the water in celebration. “I’ve fought really hard for this moment and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to get the gold for USA.”
In the SM13 final of the same event, Gaffney’s teammate Rebecca Meyers posted her second world record of the week despite swimming up a class. Her time of 2:24.56 was fast enough for silver behind SM13 swimmer Carlotta Gilli of Italy, who needed a championship record 2:24.46 to win gold.
“I had so much fun in that race,” Meyers said. “I love the competition and I love the challenge.”
Meyers returned to the pool less than 20 minutes later for the final of the 100m freestyle S12. Finding herself in seventh place at the turn, the 24-year-old showed remarkable to stamina to power back for bronze behind Maria Gomes Santiago of Brazil and Russia’s Anna Krivshina.
“I knew it was going to be a tough turnaround, but I relied on the endurance training I have done, and it paid off,” Meyers said.
Seconds of separation
The London Aquatics Centre crowd had already been fired up by an incredible finish in the first final of day five.
After more than four minutes of racing in the men’s 400m freestyle S9, under half-a-second separated Jacobo Garrido Brun of Spain (4:17.17), Brenden Hall of Australia (4:17.44) and France’s Ugo Didier (4:17.53).
It was no less exciting in the sprint races, with triple Paralympic champion Cameron Leslie smashing a world record that had stood for over half of his life to win his second gold medal of the championships in the men’s 50m freestyle S4.
The New Zealander’s winning time of 37.14 was 0.4 seconds quicker than the previous best mark set by Japan’s Yuji Hanada at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.
“I’m just stoked to get a personal best,” Leslie said. “I haven’t done one in that race for nine years so I’m really happy. I knew I was fit enough and strong enough to hold on for the whole length, so it was just a case of executing the plan.”
In the women’s 50m freestyle S8, Alice Tai won her fifth individual gold medal in as many days after pushing Brazil’s Cecilia Jeronimo de Araujo into silver (29.55).
Less than one second behind Tai in third, however, was 51-year-old Claire Supiot of France, who competed at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul over 10 years before the Brit was even born.
“I am a young girl of 51 years (and) I dream of this every day,” Supiot said.
Noticeable by her absence from that final was USA’s multiple Paralympic gold medallist, Jessica Long, who said she had chosen to focus on the women’s 4 x 100m medley relay 34pts after drifting home a distant eighth in her morning heat.
Long swam a fast third leg for the USA team in the relay later on Friday but was unable to stop an all-star Great Britain quartet led by Stephanie Millward from claiming gold in a world record time of 4:36.31.
“This team is incredible and I’m so proud of each and every one of them,” Millward said of her shared success with Tai, Brock Whiston and Toni Shaw. “They’re youngsters now but they’re going to be absolutely wonderful for many, many years to come.”
Russia produced an incredible fightback to deny Italy in the men’s event. Trailing by up to three seconds at the halfway point, Alexander Skaliukh hit back on the fly before Andrei Nikoaev overhauled the Italians in the final few metres to touch home in 4:09.16.
That result meant Ukraine replaced Italy at the top of the medals table after its swimmers collected three more golds on Friday. Maksym Krypak again proved his worth, adding his fourth title of London 2019 in the men’s 100m butterfly S10.