Disability swimmers continue summer of success for British teams

With the London 2012 Summer Olympics now less than two years away, it has been an encouraging summer for British sport, with record medal hauls at both the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona and the European Swimming Championships in Budapest. That trend has continued at this week’s IPC World Swimming Championships in Eindhoven, where Great Britain’s disability swimming team finished with an impressive tally of 18 gold medals.

In total, 12 British athletes won individual gold at the championships, including four for 15-year old Eleanor Simmonds to add to her double gold at the Beijing Paralympics. She set a new world record in winning the S6 100m freestyle:

I am on such a high right now. I have won four gold medals and I am so happy. I haven’t broken that world record since 2009 and I feel really good to have done it here. It was good to come into the race and get the gold and back up my success from Beijing.

Other winners included Sascha Kindred, twice a gold medalist in Beijing, who continued his winning streak in the 200m individual medley, and Louise Watkin in the S9 50m freestyle, who beat South Africa’s Natalie du Toit into second place.

On the final day yesterday, Daniel Pepper added gold in the S14 200m freestyle to his earlier win in the 100m breaststroke:

I didn’t think that I would win that race but I put my head down and have come away with gold. That gold was quite unexpected. I just knew I had to focus and if I did then I would have success. I am really happy with the way this week has gone. I think it has been so good and my races went to plan.

Congratulations to the entire team, from whom we can once again expect a wealth of great performances at the 2012 Paralympics.

The 2012 Summer Olympics will be hosted by London from 27 July to 12 August 2012, with the Summer Paralympics taking place between 29 August and 9 September.

The perfect 14?

In the end, Michael Phelps’ new record of ten Olympic gold medals – one more than the nine won by Paavo Nurmi, Larysa Latynina, Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis – stood for all of an hour.

And then he raised the bar again.

It wasn’t enough that he set a new world record in winning the 200 metres butterfly, clinching his fourth gold in four attempts in Beijing. It wasn’t enough that he did it half-blind because his goggles had filled with water.

Oh no. He was straight back out again to lead off for the USA in the 200 metre freestyle relay. Make that five golds out of five – add in his six from Athens and that makes eleven in total – and a fifth world record in these games. All of a sudden, his dream of winning eight golds does not seem such an impossibility.

He’s not just winning; he’s destroying the competition, frequently putting clear water between himself and the silver medallist. He’s not just setting new world records; he’s obliterating them. And with each swim, he looks stronger and stronger when he should be getting more and more tired.

At 23, Phelps, having utterly dominated men’s swimming since Athens 2004, appears to have found another gear. His fellow finalists are frequently setting new personal bests and national records, even in some cases swimming beating the existing world records. It simply isn’t enough.

At least his rivals can at least catch a breath, for 24 hours anyway. Categorically, I can say that Phelps will not win a gold medal tomorrow. He doesn’t have any finals …

We use the word ’phenomenon’ too readily in sports, devaluing the term. But make no mistake: Michael Phelps is a phenomenon.

Ten wasn’t perfect enough for Michael Phelps. Eleven seems pretty good. But by Sunday evening, maybe – just maybe – that tally might be 14. Now that really would be perfect.

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