AUSTRALIA’S JACQUELINE FRENEY today won the women’s S7 400m freestyle, bagging her seventh gold of the London Paralympics, as compatriot Matthew Cowdrey took a career 12th and Natalie du Toit again shined.
“Seven? I’m in heaven. It’s just unbelievable how good this meet’s been for me. It’s probably been one of my best meets to date. I couldn’t be more proud of myself,” the 20-year-old Freney told reporters.
Freney’s achievement means that she has now surpassed Siobhan Paton’s record of six, straight gold medals at the Sydney Games 12 years ago.
She was a bronze medallist in the event in Beijing and broke her own world record during the race to set a new best of 4min 59.02sec — and said she was pleased to be among Paralympic greats.
“I didn’t think I’d ever be able to achieve what they’ve achieved but it’s realistic now. Let’s just say I have another goal in mind for Rio (de Janeiro in 2016),” she added.
Earlier, Cowdrey shrugged off a virtually sleepless night since he became Australia’s most-decorated Paralympic athlete to take the men’s SM9 200m individual medley.
The 24-year-old Gold Coast swimmer became Australia’s most-decorated Paralympic athlete yesterday, going past athlete Tim Sullivan’s previous best of 11.
But Cowdrey said he had under-estimated the effect of the achievement, as he returned to the Aquatics Centre for Friday’s heat and final of the men’s SM9 200m individual medley.
“That one hurt. I’m not going to lie at all about that,” he told reporters.
“I don’t think I fully understood how emotionally and physically draining it was last night and the last couple of days, and being a 10-day (competition) it definitely is a lot bigger and harder than what we’re used to.
“I only got a couple of hours’ sleep last night. After three or four hours’ sleep this afternoon, I would have been ready to come out and go for it tonight.”
Cowdrey’s parents flew in to see him race in London courtesy of an undisclosed benefactor.
“They don’t usually come over and I’ve talked about how they’ve sacrificed to get me here today — and monetarily that’s a big one,” he said.
“They probably couldn’t have afforded to get over here and they definitely wouldn’t have let me pay for it either. For them to step up and do that for me, that’s pretty special.”
Natalie Du Toit of South Africa also took her third Games gold as she prepared to bring the curtain down on her glittering career that has not only seen her win 13 Paralympic golds but also compete at the Commonwealth Games and Olympics.
The 28-year-old won the women’s SM9 200m individual medal and was roared to the line by the crowd in the 17,500-capacity Aquatics Centre but said she had mixed emotions heading into her final race on Friday, the S9 100m freestyle.
Du Toit is the current world record holder at the event.
“(I’m) sad, relieved and I think scared because I have no idea what I’m going to do but also scared because those girls are swimming well. To walk away with a medal will be very special with it being the last competition,” she said.
“Hopefully afterwards I won’t cry, I’m gonna give it everything,” she added but ruled out changing her mind about retirement.
Meanwhile, Ellen Keane finished seventh in her 200m medley final this afternoon. The Dublin swimmer had a positive start and after the first 50m, she was in a strong 4th position. She then progressed to third with 100m gone looked to be an excellent contender for the podium.
Unfortunately she slipped back into 5th position after 150m and slipped further before the finish line to place her in 7th position finish with a time of 2:42:21