U.S. swimmers haul five medals on Day 3

By Nick Kiger | Sept. 01, 2012, 4:34 p.m. (ET)

Jessica Long wins
third gold medal

LONDON – American Jessica Long (Baltimore, Md.) capped off another big night in the pool for the U.S. swim team, winning her third gold medal of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, this time in the 100 meter breaststroke.

After setting a Paralympic record in this event in the morning prelims with a time of 1:29.79, Long went even faster in the final finishing with a blistering time of 1:29.28 and improving upon her Paralympic record by .51.

For Long, who could potentially leave the 2012 Games with seven individual gold medals, picking up a third gold tonight was a step closer toward that milestone, but she must now turn her focus the 50M freestyle.

The 50M freestyle is an event she feels is not one of her strongest, and she knows that if she is going to win gold she will need to start at a faster pace, which is where she will now focus most of her attention.

“The 50M freestyle is always my hardest race, just because right at the start I am always behind…so I am going to work my start and hopefully swim fast,” stated Long.

Long was not the only U.S swimmer who put on an impressive performance tonight, as four other American swimmers collected medals as well.

First to claim a medal for the U.S. was Victoria Arlen (Exeter, N.H.) who swam in one of the more tightly contested events of the evening, the 400M freestyle (S6).

It quickly became a two woman battle as Arlen went head-to-head with Great Britain’s Eleanor Simmonds in a race that came down to the wire and brought many spectators to their feet.

Arlen and Simmonds pushed each other throughout the swim before Simmonds eventually pulled ahead in the final seconds to win gold and break the world record by more than five seconds with a time of 5:19.17.  

Arlen, whose world record Simmonds broke, also swam a personal best in the race, finishing just 1.01 behind Simmonds at 5:20.18 to claim her first Paralympics medal.

The race was particularly special in that it seemed to highlight what appears to have become a newly formed rivalry between the two swimmers, something Arlen admits makes competing in these types of events more fun, especially when the crowd gets involved.

“It was a very cool experience and at the same time I told Ellie (Simmonds) that we have to give them a good show,” smiled Arlen.  

The next swimmer from the American squad to earn a medal at the Aquatic Center tonight was Roy Perkins (Del Mar, Calif.), who finished third in the men’s 200M freestyle (S5) with a time of 2:43.14.

Perkins, who has been working tirelessly for the last two months on his strategy for this single race swam well, holding on to the third spot for most of the race and nearly snatching up a silver medal at the very end of the race.

Despite making a strong push at the end, he was out touched by Spain’s Sebastian Rodriguez by a slim .03 and although it was disappointing, Perkins chose to instead focus on the positives that came out of the event.

“It was hard to get out touched by that little, but I still got a bronze so I am happy.”

Navy Lt. Brad Synder (St. Petersburg, Fla.) who lost his vision just one year ago while deployed in Afghanistan continues to be one of the stories of these Games as he landed himself on the podium again tonight after finishing second in the 50M Freestyle (S11) with a personal best time of 25.93.

Synder finished behind China’s Bozun Yang who broke the world record with a time of 25.27 to win gold.

Synder was very happy about picking up his second medal but knows he has a busy week ahead of him, with five events still remaining on his program. Next for Snyder is the 400M freestyle which he says is ‘his’ event.

“The best is yet to come. Getting loose in this pool and getting in some competition freestyles has been great but I am looking forward to lengthening it out in a longer race.”

Collecting the first gold for the U.S. tonight was Kelley Becherer (Sheboygan, Wis.) who successfully defended her Paralympic title in the 50M freestyle (S13), finishing in 27.46.

Having won the same race in Beijing worked in the favor of the third time Paralympian as she felt more relaxed and in control when she stepped onto the blocks tonight.

“I am a lot less nervous. I was able focus and have a lot more fun with the race because of that.”

The U.S. team’s five medals tonight raise the overall swimming medal count to 12 (five gold, three silver and five bronze).

Swimming continues Sunday from the Aquatics Center.