With Tokyo 2020 just two years away, Australian six-time Paralympic gold medallist Ellie Cole had her eye firmly on a home gold medal victory at the 2018 Para Pan Pacific Championships. The double Paralympic champion from Rio and London finished second at this year’s Commonwealth Games, but raised the stakes in Cairns on Sunday (12 August).
She finished the women's 100m backstroke S9 in a time of 1:10.73, with USA’s Hannah Aspden (1:13.88) and Elizabeth Smith (1:15.36) finishing closely behind her. While she cruised to victory, Cole was the first to admit that she will need to swim faster, against tougher competition if she is to medal in the event at Tokyo 2020.
“Backstroke is an event that I’ve been working on for a long time and I’ve kind of strayed away from my PB over the last year or two. And this is probably one of the better results I’ve had in a while,” Cole said.
“Most of my competitors are in Great Britain and Spain but it’s great to be able to race some of great talent, including Team USA here. Hannah won bronze in Rio, so she’s definitely here to push me.”
Another close race of the night was the women’s 100m backstroke S14 won by Australian Taylor Corry, who backed up her strong swim in the 200m individual medley to win gold in 1:11:05. Fellow Australian Jaime-Lee Getson finished just over two seconds behind her (1:13.07) with Canada’s Angela Marina placing third in 1:14:14.
23-year-old Corry dedicated the swim to her late grandfather Colin who passed away before the meet and said it was hard to concentrate on backing her result up today.
“Last night I was really happy and lucky enough to get under 2:40:00,” Corry said. “I was really happy because I did it for my Pop who passed away four weeks ago, so I did it for him.”
Japan one-two in Cairns
Just like the S14 200m individual medley, Japan was hugely successful in the S14 100m backstroke, with Keichi Nakajima winning gold marginally ahead of fellow team mate Takuya Tsugawa (1:04.40) – the favourite for the win.
Nakajima (1:03.48) took control in the final strokes of the race and was proud of his result considering it was his fourth day of competition.
“We’re on day four and I’m getting tired. I didn’t get the best time but I did the best that I could do tonight and for that, I’m feeling good,” he said.
“Ahead of Tokyo 2020, I am feeling insecure about this race because my times won’t necessarily get me into the finals but I have a plan.
“I am planning to swim in the 200m IM at the Paralympics, so I will use this as training for that, and the 200m IM training will help me for this event too, so I expect to get faster because I will be strengthening the stroke.”
USA win with Griswold
As the only member of Team USA in his S8 race, Robert Griswold stormed home in 1:04.43, nearly five seconds in front of Australia’s Jesse Aungles (1:09.12) and with a comfortable distance in front of Canada’s Phillipe Vachon (1.12.33). Griswold had the lead from the start, widening the gap between himself and the Australian throughout the race.
The S9 version of the race brought the trans-Tasman rivalry between Australia and New Zealand, with three Australians up against two Kiwis. Timothy Hodge returned after a successful 200m Individual Medley for another personal bets, this time by just point two of a second (1.03.68), with fellow Australian Logan Powel winning his second silver medal of the meet (1.05.67). New Zealander Jesse Reynolds claimed bronze in 1:06.04.
Rounding off the night was another Australian victory, with the men’s 4x100m freestyle 34-point relay team of Matt Levy, Timothy Disken, Rowan Crothers and Ben Popham, who stormed home for gold with an impressive time of 3.50.45.
The time was almost a second and a half faster than their fifth place effort in Rio at the Paralympic Games, and the team filled with experience and youth should only improve over the next two years.
The Para Pan Pacific Championships in Cairns, Australia will continue on Monday, the closing day of the competition. The host nation leads the medal standings on a total of 31 gold medals.
Full results are available on Swimming Australia's website.
You can watch day four live on World Para Swimming’s website.