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Day-1: U.S., Britain tie for early lead in medals haul
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09:25, September 08, 2008

Natalie du Toit(C) of South Africa smiles during the awarding ceremony of the women's 100m butterfly S9 of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, September 7, 2008. (Xinhua/Chen Kai)

Competition at the Beijing Paralympics got underway Sunday as the United States and Britain won four gold medals apiece for an early lead in the race for most medals.

China captured three golds but led the overall medal count with 13, against the Amercians' nine and Britain's seven.

Du Jianping earned the host country's first gold at the Games when he won the men's 100m freestyle in the S3 class in a world record time of one minute 42.95 seconds.

"I got choked in the beginning. I breathed on the right side and saw that the Ukrainian swimmer was catching up, which made me a little nervous," said the 25-year-old Du. "I held my breath and swam my strokes as fast as I could with nothing else in my mind but a gold medal."

Cui Na and Guo Huaping then added a double gold in judo for China, who topped the medals table at the Athens Paralympics in 2004 with 63 golds and is expected to dominate again on home soil.

Spain's Richard Oribe kisses his medal during the awarding ceremony of men's 100m freestyle S4 of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games at the National Aquatics Center in Beijing, Sept. 7, 2008. Oribe won the silver medal in the event with 1 minute 26.62 seconds. (Xinhua/Fan Jun)

The Americans continued their dominance in swimming by winning four gold medals at the Water Cube, but South Africa's Natalie du Toit was the biggest star.

The 24-year-old amputee, who competed in the 10-kilometer open-water swim at last month's Olympics and finished 16th among 25 competitors, began her quest with a bang for five gold medals at the Paralympics when she broke her own world record to win the S9 women's 100m butterfly.

Du Toit, who lost her lower left leg in a motorcycle accident in 2001, clocked one minute 06.74 seconds, chopping 0.05 seconds off the previous mark she set in 2006.

Du Toit and Polish table tennis player Natalia Partyka are the only athletes in Beijing who will appear in both the Olympics and Paralympics.

Britain's cyclists started the Games with a hat-trick of golds, while Australia took away the other two contested in track cycling.

Sebastian Wolk(12) of Germany competes during a men's wheelchair basketball preliminary match between Canada and Germany at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, September 7, 2008. Canada won the match 62-59.(Xinhua/Li Ziheng)

Simon Richardson, 41, broke the LC3/4 one-kilometer time-trial world record to win Britain's first gold medal, before tandem cyclist Aileen McGlynn and her pilot Ellen Hunter lowered the world record to retain the 1km time trial title in B4 category.

Kenny then made it a hat-trick of golds for Britain, successfully defending his CP3 individual pursuit title.

Meanwhile, Chris Scott, a four-time Paralympian, and Kieran Modra blitzed the field at Beijing's cycling track to secure Australia's first two gold medals of the Games.

Scott, who has cerebral palsy, said the victory was particularly sweet as Beijing will be his last Games.

Natalia Partyka of Poland returns the ball during a Women's Individual (Class 10) Group A match against Audrey le Morvanat of France at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games table tennis event on Sept. 7, 2008. Partyka won 3-0. The 19-year-old Polish player, who was born with a right arm that ends at the elbow, is the Paralympic champion in Athen 2004. Before defending her Paralympic title, she played in the table tennis team event at Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, which made her one of only two athletes, along with South African swimmer Natalie du Toit, to compete in both Olympic and Paralympic in Beijing. (Xinhua/Xu Jiajun)

"It's amazing - I told everyone that this was definitely my last individual pursuit, and they all said 'Well, you better make it a gold'," said the 40-year-old. "I'm the first gold medallist for Australia and that makes it even more special."

Slovakian shooter Veronika Vadovicova scooped up the first gold medal of the Games when she won the women's 10-meter air rifle standing SH1 final with 494.8 points. SH1 competition do not require a shooting stand.

Athletes will compete over 11 days in 20 sports in five different categories of disability, with a total of 472 gold medals awarded.

The Paralympics end on Sept. 17.

Source: Xinhua

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