CAIRNS, Australia – Aurélie Rivard of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., struck gold for the second straight day at the 2018 Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships in Cairns, Australia, triumphing in the women’s 100-metre freestyle S10 on Friday after breaking her own world record in the 400 free on opening night.
Twenty-four hours after she successfully defended her championship title in the 400, Rivard did the same in the 100 sprint thanks to a lightning-fast start. The 22-year-old standout posted a remarkable 28.93-second split on her way to a final time of 59.45, good for a .34-second win over New Zealand’s Sophie Pascoe.
“It’s my best time since the Rio Games, so it’s really good,” said Rivard, who set the S10 world record of 59.17 back in 2015 before claiming Paralympic gold in 59.31 a year later. “I would have liked to go a little faster, but it still went well. I beat my rival and I’m really pleased with my race.”
Mike Thompson, her personal coach at CHP-Québec in Montreal, was understandably pleased with his pupil’s performance, especially in the first half of the race.
“It’s her third fastest time in the 100 free behind her world record that she set in 2015. It’s been a frustrating one because we haven’t really been able to get close to it since. She went a little bit slower in Rio, and we’ve been trying to inch closer and closer,” Thompson said. “She went 59.48 this morning, she was feeling great, amazing, and we really thought she was going to be a little bit faster tonight. 59.45 is not a bad time at all, it was actually the first time that she split under 30 seconds, 28.93 is incredible speed for her. But she definitely felt it on the back half. It’s something we need to work on moving forward, but I was very impressed and very happy with her race.
“She was a bit frustrated I think towards the end. That’s the one world record that seems to elude her since she set it in 2015, so we’re going to keep working towards that. It’s definitely something to watch in the future.”
In the men’s 100 free, Alec Elliot of Kitchener, Ont., and Philippe Vachon of Blainville, Que., both registered personal best times for the second consecutive night en route to fourth-place finishes in the S10 and S8 categories, respectively. The former touched the wall in 55.19 seconds, while his teammate finished the race in 1:01.40.
“I’m having a great time down here in Australia,” said Elliot, who had achieved his previous PB of 55.28 at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. “I had two wonderful races, both in the 400 free yesterday, where I had a personal best time by six seconds, which hasn’t happened in a couple of years, and then again tonight in the 100 freestyle, where I also hadn’t had a personal-best time in about three years. So it was very nice to get another one.”
Vachon, who like Elliot kicked off the championships on Thursday with silver in the 400 free, had posted a 1:01.76 in the 100 sprint only a few weeks ago, on July 19, at the Canadian Trials.
“I’m pretty pleased with my race. I had a personal-best time, so there’s really nothing wrong with that, even though I know I made a few little mistakes at certain times. It’s my second straight day where I set a personal best, so things are looking good for the next couple of days.”
The 100 freestyle was the Canadian team’s lone event on Day 2.
On the women’s side, Tess Routliffe of Caledon, Ont. (1:14.40), Shelby Newkirk of Saskatoon (1:16.31) and Sabrina Duchesne of St-Augustin, Que. (1:16.45) placed fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, in the S7 category, while Katarina Roxon of Kippens, Nfld., was seventh in the S9 class (1:07.98).
In men’s action, Zach Zona of Waterford, Ont., rounded out the Canadian results with an eighth-place finish in the S8 division (1:05.28).
“I was pretty pleased in the morning. Our goal was just to kind of get in and see where we’re at. I don’t race this event as often as my other events,” said Routliffe. “After that, I was excited to get into the final and be more confident, just because we had gotten the feeling out and now it was just about getting the time out. I was happy with my time. It’s a season best, so it was pretty happy all around.”
Wayne Lomas, Swimming Canada’s Associate Director of High Performance and Para-swimming National Coach, was thrilled to see more personal-best performances on Friday evening.
“Tonight was a great opportunity for us to consolidate the great performances of night one, and we saw that. Clearly, with Aurélie swimming another outstanding time and rightly rewarded with a gold medal. Also with Philippe Vachon and Alec Elliot swimming very fast, which is always wonderful to see. Really for us, it’s about chasing personal bests. Not every member of the team has the ability to win a gold medal on the world stage, they can’t control who they’re racing against. But every single member of the team can swim the fastest they’ve ever swam. That’s what we search for, and that’s what our team continues to do.”
The 2018 Pan Pacific Para-swimming Championships continue through Monday at Tobruk Memorial Pool in Cairns. Finals begin at 5 p.m. local time every night (3 a.m. ET).
Full results available here: http://liveresults.swimming.org.au/SAL/2018PARP/