Justin Zook wins third consecutive backstroke gold with WR swim

By Lindsay Wyskowski | Sept. 04, 2012, 5:21 p.m. (ET)

Justin Zook
With a world record, Justin Zook won a third consecutive gold medal in the men's 100m backstroke (S10) at the Paralympic Games.

LONDON — It was a monster night at the pool for the United States as the team claimed six medals Tuesday at the Aquatic Center. This was the most successful night of swimming for the U.S. so far at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and the total of swimming medals now stands at 25, the most U.S. medals in any sport.

Justin Zook and Lantz Lamback led the Americans as they topped the podium in their respective events. Jessica Long, Victoria Arlen and Cortney Jordan captured silver medals, and Tucker Dupree rounded out the night’s medal haul with a bronze.

The medal Zook won in the 100 meter backstroke (S10) was his third consecutive gold in the event, and he set a new world record in the process, touching the wall at 1:00.01.

“We said maybe to go out in 29.0, 29.2 [at the turn], somewhere in that range,” he said. “I am a person who looks at the clock every time I flip, and I saw that it was 29.1, so I knew we were on pace to do something pretty special.”

He said after the event that he never really thought about a three-peat in the event until those around him started to ask him about it. He says it’s important to him to know he made right decisions on his journey. 

“I picked the right coach. I maybe ate some of the wrong foods but most of the time I did what was necessary,” he said. Zook, coached by Tom Franke and John Taffee, also credited his parental support system as a major factor to his success.

Lamback was thrilled with his gold medal, celebrating in the water just after finishing the 50m freestyle (S7) in 27.84 – a new Paralympic and American record. This is his second medal in the event; he won the bronze medal in Beijing in 2008.

 “I was expecting a very tight race. I wanted to win so bad, and I just went out there and went after it,” he said, adding, “My name just happened to have No. 1 next to it.”

With one race left to go in his 2012 Games program, Lamback says the gold medal will play a role in his approach. “It’s a confidence booster. It makes you feel strong, like you've done all your work in all the right places.”

Long won her fourth individual medal, fifth total, of these Paralympic Games in the 100m backstroke (S8), taking the silver with a time of 1:18.67. Mallory Weggemann finished seventh.

The gold medalist, Heather Frederiksen of Great Britain, is an athlete Long has faced off against before.

“Heather and I are great competitors. We always push each other to the last 15 meters and I’m so proud of Heather for everything that she’s gone through and winning this,” she said. “I am just happy to be up on the medal stand.”

Long is not the only American with a British rival. Arlen won her silver in the 50m freestyle (S6) against Team GB’s Ellie Simmonds, who took the bronze. Mirjam de Koning-Peper of Netherlands got the gold.

“We both push each other to go faster,” Arlen said of Simmonds. “I enjoy racing her and I enjoy being in the ready room with her. I couldn’t have asked for a better rival.”

Arlen is another multiple medalist of the 2012 Games, and the silver tonight was her third medal in three events. She wasn’t sure how the race tonight would play out, but was hoping it would be positive.

“I was expecting a really tough battle,” she said. “Sprinting isn’t necessarily my thing because I can’t kick, I can’t necessarily rev up. It takes me maybe a 100 or 400 to get going, and so I was expecting a fight and I actually was hoping to medal but I wasn’t expecting to.

“I’m really happy with silver,” she said.

Jordan also swam a 50m freestyle Tuesday in the S7 class. She won gold in the event four years ago, and sprinted to a 33.18 finish, her best time by nearly half a second.

“I have a special place in my heart for [this] race because it was my gold medal race,” she said. “Coming back and being able to continue with this, and get a silver and better my time, I’m thrilled. This will also have a special place in my heart.”

When asked what it means to represent Team USA on the world stage, Jordan’s voice was full of pride and admiration.

“I love our country. My dad is in the military, and I’ve been raised to love our country. I’ve always wanted to represent it, and the fact that I’ve gotten to represent it twice and well, I’m extremely proud.”

The excitement of winning a medal was not lost on Dupree, who swam his way to his first-ever Paralympic medal in the 100m freestyle (S12).

 “I can’t even put words to it,” he said. “It’s a great feeling, knowing I left it all in the pool and finally get on the podium.”

He finished seventh in the event in Beijing, so winning a medal in London is more than he expected.

“I wanted to have fun,” he said. “That’s the sport. We put a lot of our lives into it and it’s one of those things… I don’t know. I’m just at a loss for words right now. It’s awesome.”