BISMARCK, N.D. – It was a record-breaking day one of the 2012 U.S. Paralympics Swimming Trials. Four world records, 35 new American records and 11 PanAm records were set Thursday at the Bismarck State College Aquatic and Wellness Center. The competition is the sole selection event for U.S. athletes to qualify for the 2012 Paralympic Games.
During the morning’s preliminary competition, Kelley Becherer (Sheboygan, Wis.) got things started by setting a new world record in the women’s 400m freestyle (S13) with a 200m split time of 2:11.42.
Two-time U.S. Paralympian Jessica Long (Baltimore, Md.) also made waves by breaking three world records on the day. Long broke her own world mark in the women’s 400m freestyle, which she set in 2009, with a time of 4:44.17.
A little more than an hour later, Long bested her own world record mark in the 100m women’s breaststroke (S8) with a time of 1:28.53. Additionally, her 50m split in that race also set a new world record time of 42.07.
“My teammates and I have worked so hard, so it’s always super exciting to see how things turn out at a competition like this,” said Long. “While we have all trained for this, on race day, you just never know - anything can happen.”
Lieutenant Brad Snyder (St. Petersburg, Fla.), U.S. Navy, also had a big day in the pool. Snyder, who was blinded by an IED blast while deployed in Afghanistan in September 2011, raced in the men’s 400m freestyle prelims (S11) in 4:39.52, a time which now ranks him number one in the world in that event.
Snyder, who said the pressure was off heading into tonight’s finals, proceeded to better his earlier time in the event, finishing in 4:35.62.
“The 2012 Paralympic Games are a goal of mine,” said Lt. Snyder. “Besides hoping to compete in London, this is a way for me to show people that an injury like this doesn’t have to stop you. I’m not going to stop living life because of losing my vision.”
A total of 11 athletes, including Jessica Long, who live and train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., are competing at the trials.
“At a meet like this, you look for little surprises, and today there have been lots of surprises, so I’m very pleased,” said U.S. Paralympics Swimming Resident Coach Dave Denniston. “The swimming today has been outstanding.”
Case in point includes performances by resident athlete Ileana Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.), who dropped seven seconds in the 100m breaststroke. Also resident athlete and two-time U.S. Paralympian Rudy Garcia-Tolson (Bloomington, Calif.), who shaved several seconds off of his 400m freestyle time. And resident athlete Lantz Lamback (Augusta, Ga.) also set an American record and new personal best in the 400m freestyle, and he is now ranked fifth in the world in the event.
Thirty-four athletes (20 female and 14 male) will be nominated to the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Swimming Team at the conclusion of competition. The 2012 Paralympic Games will take place in London, England, Aug. 29-Sept. 9. More than 4,000 athletes with a physical disability from 165 countries will compete in 19 sports.
Trials competition continues through Saturday, June 16. Live results can be found online at http://www.bismarckaquatics.com/hytek/results/evtindex.htm.
For more information, or to arrange athlete interviews, please contact Beth Bourgeois, U.S. Paralympics, at 719-306-5639 or firstname.lastname@example.org.