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Swimming roundup: USA regains dominance at Beijing Paralympics
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08:33, September 16, 2008

Curtain was lowered for the nine-day swimming competitions at the Beijing Paralympics here on Monday as the United States regained its supremacy in the pool after suffering a slump in Athens four years ago.

Ace swimmer Erin Popovich spearheaded the U.S. team to overtake hosts China, who finished top of the swimming programs in Athens with 19 golds, in Beijing.

The 23-year-old Popovich, who stands 1.34 meters tall, was born with achondroplasia which restricts the growth of her limbs. But her miraculous run in Beijing has proven disabilities don't necessarily means limits.

Popovich claimed four straight wins in her favorite 200m individual medley SM7, 100m freestyle, 100m breaststroke and 400m freestyle. Four golds and two silvers out of six events put her to the top of the multi-medallists among American swimmers.

With the feats in the National Aquatics Center, better known as Water Cube, Popovich is seen as a Paralympic equivalent to American Olympian Phelps, who won his record eight swimming gold medals a few weeks ago. But the humble girl said the "superfish" was her idol and inspired her performance in Beijing.

"That's a great honour to be compared to him. He's obviously a wonderful swimmer and it's very incredible to see what he's been able to do. Seeing like what he did a few weeks ago here inspired me a lot and also gave me what needs to come here and to be successful." said Popovich.

Elsewhere, though losing the leading place on the medal table, China's dominance on the short race still exist.

Among them, Du Jianping, the opening gold medallist for the hosts' delegation of the Games, grabbed four golds in 50m backstroke S3, 100m freestyle, 4X50m freestyle relays 20 PTS, 4X50m medley relays to become China's most winning swimmer of the Games.

With the 25-year-old Du's lead, China clinched the last swimming gold medal on Monday night.

In men's 4X50m medley relays, Chinese quartet Du, Tang Yuan, Xu Qing and Yang Yuanrun overtook the lead after the final 50-meter turn and touched wall first with Yang's strong spurt. Their winning time 2 minutes 33.15 seconds also shattered the Brazilian's world record set in 2007, chopping 0.44 seconds.

China's newly-crowned leader Du said he didn't imagine he could make such feats before the Games.

"I didn't expect that I could win four golds. I will dedicate one of them to my coach, one to my parents and the other two to myself. I'm very happy with my performance in this Paralympics and I'm relaxed now." said the humble winner.

Another highlight of day came in men's 4x100m medley 34PTS. The Australian quartet, who took the lead after the 200-meter turn, out-touched Chinese counterparts by a margin of 0.77 seconds. The Aussie's winning time of 4:11.90 also broke the former world mark.

More than 560 swimmers with disabilities from around the world competed here in 140 events.

A total of 132 world records fell in the pool. The United States led the swimming tally with 17 golds, followed by China and Ukraine both with 13.

On the multi-medallist table, South African star Natalie du Toit and Australia's Matthew Cowdrey both grabbed five gold medals to become the most crowned swimmers in Beijing.

Source: Xinhua

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