2008 PARALYMPIC GAMES: Erin Popovich Wins Third Gold Medal with World Record Swim; U.S. Women Continue to Rule the Pool

Sept. 09, 2008, 1:29 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING, China – A competitor who thrives on the world stage of the Paralympic Games, Erin Popovich (Fort Collins, Colo./Silverbow, Mont.) won her third gold medal in Beijing, posting a world record time of 1:31.60 in the women’s 100m breaststroke (SB7.) Teammate Jessica Long (Baltimore, Md.) – who set the former world record of 1:32.52 in 2006 – finished with a time of 1:38.60 and the bronze medal.

“We knew we had a tough race because there’s a lot of competition here,” said Popovich. “I was just hoping to beat 1:35. I kept driving and pushing myself harder and harder.” The golden girl has won three gold medals in as many days of competition, including a world record race in the women’s 200 IM (SM7) and a Paralympic record race in the women’s 100m freestyle (S7.) Popovich and Long weren’t the only American duo to rule the podium tonight. Ashley Owens (Stockbridge, Ga.) took gold in the women’s 100m freestyle (S10), setting a world record with a time of 1:01.57. Anna Eames (Golden Valley, Minn.) joined her on the podium, earning bronze with a time of 1:01.91.

“Our women’s team is absolutely the best in the world,” said Julie O’Neill (Colorado Springs, Colo.), head coach, U.S. Paralympic Swimming Team. “They are so dominant right now and have raised the level of competition across all events.”

Rudy Garcia-Tolson (Colorado Springs, Colo./Bloomington, Calif.) represented the U.S. Men’s Paralympic Swimming Team on the medal stand tonight with a bronze in the 100m breaststroke (SB7). His time of 1:24.01 was a personal best by approximately one second.

Additional Results
Men’s 100m Freestyle (S2) – Curtis Lovejoy (Atlanta, Ga.) – 2:34.11 (6)
Women’s 100m Backstroke (S6) – Miranda Uhl (Alachua, Fla.) – 1:40.44 (8)
Men’s 100m Freestyle (S10) – Justin Zook (Plymouth, Minn.) – 55.68 (8)
Women’s 100m Freestyle (S10) – Susan Beth Scott (Colorado Springs, Colo./Cape Girardeau, Mo.) – 1:02.33 (4)
Men’s 100m Butterfly (S11) – Philip Scholz (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.) – 1:11.76 (8)
Men’s 100m Butterfly (S12) – Tucker Dupree (Raleigh, N.C.) – 1:01.53 (5)
Men’s 200m Freestyle (S3) – Michael DeMarco (San Diego, Calif.) – 4:39.79 (6)
Men’s 200m Freestyle (S5) – Roy Perkins (Del Mar, Calif.) – 2:46.68 (4)
Men’s 100m Breaststroke (SB8) – Jarrett Perry (Colorado Springs, Colo./Wichita, Kan.) – 1:20.64 (8)

After three days of competition, the U.S. leads the medal standings with nine gold, four silver and seven bronze. In the overall medal count for swimming competition, the U.S. trails China, which has a total of 25 medals.

“I had no idea how fast I was swimming. It’s a tough competition and I just had to get out fast and keep it strong. I love competing. I have that competitive drive and what a great place to make it happen…right here at the Paralympics.”

“I just tried to swim out hard. I thought she [Katarzyna Pawlik (POL)] had it but I just got to the wall first. When I looked up and saw myself on the screen, I knew I had won. Words can’t describe it. My goal was the gold medal – I’m at my goal.”

“I felt really good. The heat was really fast. I’m happy for [Ashley] and glad to get two of us on the podium.”

“I just had a great race. My goal was to get on the podium and I’m very happy with myself and my swim.”

“It’s not what I wanted, but it was a good race. It’s tough competition out there – there are lots of young kids coming in, but I’m doing well and hanging in there. I’m looking forward to the next races to make it to the podium. It’s just about buckling down and taking it one day at a time.”

“I was out of my mind, thinking about the thousands of people in the crowd. The race felt good, though I was tired at the end. My goal [for the meet] is best times, but medaling would be nice.”

“Other high performance directors from other countries have shared with us that they don’t think that anyone, as a team, can beat our women’s team. The women are very well rounded, with many swimming all four strokes and medal potential in five or six events. On the men’s side, the athletes are single or double event specialists, and will win or set world records in key events.”

“Today was our weakest day in the schedule. Tomorrow is our second weakest. After that, we get to our strongest events, where we have an opportunity for eight or more medals per day, and hope to move up further in the medal count.”

For complete swimming results, visit http://results.beijing2008.cn/WRMP/ENG/Schedule/SW.shtml.
For more information, please contact Tara Dugan Kusumoto at 139 1063 1844. If calling from the U.S., dial 011 86 plus the local number.