The national anthem of Colombia rang out at a Paralympic Games for the first time in 36 years at Rio 2016 on Saturday (10 September), as Carlos Serrano stormed to gold in the men’s 100m breaststroke SB7 with a new world record.
Eighteen-year-old Serrano (1:12.50) shaved more than a second off his former world best set just a few hours earlier in this morning’s heats.
“This is the happiest day of my life. I feel strong. I love Rio,” Serrano said. “I raced as hard as I could this morning but I knew I could go quicker tonight. I have trained so hard.”
He is the first Colombian athlete in any Para sport to win gold at a Paralympic Games since Pedro Mejia, also in the 100m breaststroke, in 1980.
Australia’s defending champion Blake Cochrane (1:18.66) could not live with Serrano’s pace, but still secured silver. China’s Hong Yang (1:20.21) claimed bronze in a new Asian record time.
US Army Sergeant Elizabeth Marks kicked off a gold rush for her country in the women’s 100m breaststroke SB7, in a new world-record time of 1:28.13. She was congratulated by former Paralympic champion and record holder teammate Jessica Long during an emotional embrace in the water.
“I congratulated her for winning and for breaking my old world record!” Long said. “I knew she was going to push me to the finish. She's a great friend and a great competitor, for me it wasn't my best time. I've been faster, but you know it is just whoever gets their hand to the wall first and she did that tonight.”
Marks was injured whilst on duty in Iraq in 2010. In 2016 she dedicated her Invictus Games swimming gold medal to the hospital in Cambridge, Great Britain, that treated her in 2014 when she fell seriously ill with respiratory problems.
“I was just hoping for the best and putting everything I had into it,” Marks said. “I am honoured to be part of Team USA. Even more than that, I am honoured to represent soldiers and everyone else.
“I think I will keep this one [medal] for the moment. I will celebrate it a bit. The intent of the Invictus medal was because those people saved my life.”
Long (1:32.94) took her third medal in as many days with silver. The Netherlands’ Lisa den Braber (1:34.66) was third.
There were a further three gold medals in the pool for the USA on their very own Super Saturday.
Beijing 2008 Paralympic champion Roy Perkins (35.04) returned to his best form in an incredibly close men’s 50m butterfly S5. He beat China’s Shiwei Hu (35.25) and Brazilian defending title holder Daniel Dias (35.62), to create one of the shocks of the night.
“I have worked for four years to be able to beat him [Dias],” Perkins, who even installed a starting block in his mother’s swimming pool to practice, said.
“I knew during those years that to do it in front of his home audience would be a big deal. The whole building was shaking, I think the water was probably shaking. It excited me.”
Bradley Snyder (4:28.78) ran away with the men’s 400m freestyle S11 gold, posting a convincing win for his second consecutive Paralympic title in the event. Like Marks, Snyder also became impaired whilst on duty for his country in the US Navy, winning the title at London 2012 on the one year anniversary of losing his sight in Afghanistan.
His Worlds bronze medallist teammate Tharon Drake (4:40.96) won the clash for silver in the last 100m against Brazil’s Matheus Sousa (4:41.05).
World champion Rebecca Myers (2:24.66) held off Uzbekistan’s Fotimakhon Amilova (2:25.23) to take her second gold of Rio 2016 in the women’s 200m individual medley SM13.
Amilova’s teammate Shokhsanamakhon Toshpulatova (2:27.31) was dominant in the first three lengths, but dropped down to third in the freestyle 50m. However her bronze is the first Paralympic medal of her young career.
The women’s 100m backstroke S10 was definitely lucky for New Zealand’s Sophie Pascoe (1:07.04), as she won her seventh Paralympic title at her third Games.
Hungary’s Bianca Pap (1:07.95) was second and Great Britain’s Alice Tai (1:09.39) third.
Ukraine secured a further three Paralympic titles.
Maksym Krypak (57.24) lowered his men’s 100m backstroke S10 world record for the second time in one day on his way to gold. Dutch 18-year-old Olivier van de Voort (58.10) was second for his first Paralympic medal. Denys Dubrov (59.37) joined his teammate Krypak on the podium with bronze.
Yelyzaveta Mereshko (33.43) won her first Paralympic title in the women’s 50m freestyle S6 with a new Paralympic record. Her teammate Viktoriia Savtsova (33.68) was second ahead of Australia’s Tiffany Thomas Kane (34.41).
World champion Dymtro Vyonhradets won the first of what could be five golds in the men’s 50m backstroke S3. His European record of 44.94 saw him lead China’s Wenpan Huang (46.11) and Italy’s Vincenzo Boni (46.67).
China also left the Aquatics Stadium with a trio of golds.
China’s Qing Xu (28.81) won his third medal of Rio 2016, and 10th Paralympic gold of his career, in the men’s 50m freestyle S6. The defending gold medallist and world champion led Colombia’s Nelson Crispin (29.27) onto the podium in second. Xu’s compatriot Jia Hongguang (29.87) completed the top three.
“Because it's my tenth Paralympic gold this actually means a lot to me,” Xu said. “That might be the reason I couldn’t sleep very well last night and why I’m pretty nervous. It’s a milestone for me; it’s pretty important.”
Qiuping Peng (48.49) impressed the crowds by lowering the women’s 50m backstroke S3 world record by more than one second. It was the 22-year-old’s first title on her debut in the Paralympic pool. China’s Guofen Meng (51.42) was second whilst Dutch world champion Lisette Teunissen (53.44) took away bronze.
An upset came in the women’s 50m freestyle S5 when China’s Xihan Xu (43.62) beat Norway’s Paralympic and world champion Sarah Louise Rung (45.67). Rung was not happy with her heat swim from the morning, which saw her start from lane one. Italy’s Giulia Ghiretti (45.74) was delighted with her bronze medal.
Belarusian London 2012 gold medallist Ihar Boki maintained his 100 per cent record in the men’s 200m individual medley, winning his second gold of the competition. Boki (2:04.02) led throughout the race, touching in for a new Paralympic record, whilst two Ukrainians fought for silver and bronze.
Iaroslav Denysenko swapped places with Danylo Chufarov at various points, but it was Denysenko (2:08.76) who claimed the silver over Chufarov (2:11.12). However Chufarov set a new Paralympic record for the SM12 classification in the process.
The Netherlands’ Liesette Bruinsma won her first Paralympic title at the age of 15 in the women’s 400m freestyle S11.
Looking absolutely overwhelmed by her gold against the likes of Germany double Paralympian and defending champion Daniela Schulte, Bruinsma touched in at 5:15.08. Italy’s Cecilia Camellini (5:16.36) was second whilst China’s Qing Xie (5:25.14) worked her way up from seventh on the first touch, to third at the last.
At the end of day three, China and Ukraine retain first and second in the swimming medals table respectively. With their four gold medals from Saturday, the USA move into third place.
Live coverage and results of swimming is available at Paralympic.org. Live updates will also be posted to IPC Swimming’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.