TOKYO – Danielle Dorris put an exclamation point on a strong Canadian showing in the pool at the Paralympic Games, winning the women’s 50-m butterfly S7 in world record time as swimming came to an end Friday at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
It marked the second medal of the Games for the 18-year-old from Moncton, N.B., and the eighth overall for the Canadian swim team, including three gold, three silver and two bronze.
Canada had also achieved eight podium finishes (4-2-2) in the pool at Rio 2016.
Dorris, who made her Games debut five years ago at the age of 13, claimed her first career Paralympic medal on Monday, silver in the 100 backstroke.
“This one (the gold) means so much more. Fly is very much the event that I love the most, so being able to medal, let alone win gold, is very special to me.”
Dorris established herself as a gold medal favourite in the heats of the 50 fly when she set a new world standard of 33.51 seconds, lowering the previous mark of 33.81 held by Mallory Weggemann of the United States since 2012.
The New Brunswicker then wrote more history in the final, posting a sensational 32.99 to become the first female S7 swimmer to go under 33 seconds in the event.
Weggemann took silver in 34.30, just out-touching Italy’s Giulia Terzi (34.32) at the wall.
“I’m very happy. I was not expecting to go that time. I was hoping for a 33 low, I’ll take the 32 high. It couldn’t have gone better,” said Dorris, who trains at Club de natation Bleu et Or in her hometown.
In addition to her two medals, Dorris also finished fourth in the 200 individual medley in Tokyo, missing the podium by five hundredths of a second on Day 3. Now that her second Games have concluded, she can’t wait to share her success with her family and friends back home.
“Let’s hope they’re all proud of me for this amazing swim. I’m happy to bring home the medal. I did it for them, really, and myself, but a lot for them.”
Canada nearly added more hardware on Day 10, Aurélie Rivard (Club de Natation Région de Québec) of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., and Shelby Newkirk (Saskatoon Lasers Swim Club) of Saskatoon finishing fourth in the women’s 200 IM SM10 and the women’s 100 back S6, respectively, despite Canadian record swims.
Both of their finals were won in world record times.
After qualifying fifth in the heats, Rivard posted a 2:28.73 in the 200 IM final to lower her own previous national mark of 2:28.93 set in 2017.
Chantalle Zijderveld of the Netherlands prevailed in a lightning-fast 2:24.85 and was followed at the wall by Hungary’s Bianka Pap (2:26.12) and Lisa Kruger (2:27.86), also of the Netherlands.
Rivard had medalled in her first five events in the Japanese capital, including two gold, one silver in two bronze. She also lowered her own world standards in the 100 and 400 freestyle.
“Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with the way I swam this event,” said the 25-year-old, who now has 10 career medals across three Paralympic Games. “It’s a Canadian record. Of course, finishing fourth is kind of weird but the other girls were better and I couldn’t have done better than this so I’m really pleased with the way that I ended this (Games).”
In the women’s 100 back S6, Newkirk first set a new national mark in the preliminaries when she qualified third in 1:22.83, before posting an even faster time of 1:21.79 in the final.
The three swimmers who beat her to the wall all went under the previous world standard. Elizabeth Marks of the U.S. triumphed in 1:19.57, with China’s Yuyan Jiang (1:20.65) taking silver and Germany’s Verena Schott (1:21.16) earning bronze.
“I was a lot happier with my race than this morning,” said Newkirk, a 25-year-old first-time Paralympian who also rewrote the Canadian record book in the 50 and 100 free S6 earlier in the Games. “I really wanted to go out strong and I really tried to push that second half a little more than this morning, and to come out with a Canadian record and fourth place, I’m definitely happy with that.
“The Paralympic Games is something I’ve been dreaming of for so long. It’s definitely still a little surreal being here. I’m so excited for all the things that I’ve learned and how it went and I’m excited for Paris now.”
Canada also had a pair of fifth-place finishes in men’s finals on Friday, courtesy of Alec Elliot (Club de Natation Région de Québec) of Kitchener, Ont., in the 200 IM SM10 and Matthew Cabraja (Cobra Swim Club) of Brampton, Ont., in the 100 fly S11.
Elliot clocked 2:15.26 in a race won by Ukraine’s Maksym Krypak in Paralympic record time (2:05.68). Stefano Raimondi of Italy (2:07.68) and Bas Takken of the Netherlands (2:11.39) took home silver and bronze.
“It was a good race,” said Elliot, who also finished fifth in the 100 fly and 400 free in his second Games appearance. “I was in the race until 100 metres and then I just really started to hurt but I gave it everything I had and I finished pretty strong.”
Cabraja, a 19-year-old first-time Paralympian, posted back-to-back Canadian records in the heats (1:06.60) and final (1:05.97) of his event and ended up within a second of the podium.
Japanese teammates Keiichi Kimuro (1:02.57) and Uchu Tomita (1:03.59) were first and second to the wall, with Brazil’s Wendell Belarmino Pereira (1:05.20) taking third place.
“I’m feeling tired but I’m also feeling super proud and super excited about that result,” said Cabraja, who also reached the 400 free final in his Games debut, placing seventh. “This morning we went out a little too easy and that’s one thing we wanted to correct tonight. We executed that strategy perfectly tonight. It’s just amazing.”
In the other Friday final involving a Canadian, three-time Paralympian Morgan Bird (High Performance Centre – Quebec) of Calgary finished seventh in the women’s 100 fly S8 in 1:28.05.
Jessica Long of the U.S. (1:09.87), Viktoriia Ishchiulova of the Russian Paralympic Committee (1:10.80) and Columbia’s Laura Carolina Gonzalez Rodriguez (1:20.93) made up the podium.
“I think the (medley) relay last night really helped me to prepare for this evening since I didn’t have a morning swim. I executed my race plan as well as I could, taking it out comfortably in the first 50 and giving it all I had in the second half,” said Bird, who claimed her first Paralympic medal last Sunday, bronze in the 4×100 free. “I’m really proud of the performances I put forward at this Games.”
Also competing on the last day of swimming were three-time Paralympian Camille Bérubé (Natation Gatineau) of Gatineau, Que., 10th in the heats of the women’s 50 fly S7 (42.35), and Rio 2016 veteran Tammy Cunnington (Red Deer Catalina Swim Club) of Red Deer, Alta., 13th in the women’s 50 backstroke S4 preliminaries (1:09.89).
Wayne Lomas, Swimming Canada’s Associate High Performance Director and National Para Swimming Coach, was proud of the team’s performance on Day 10 and throughout the Games.
“From six swims tonight we saw Aurélie, Matthew, Shelby and Danielle swim a personal best and Alec record his second fastest time ever. All of this on the final night of 10-day Paralympic Games. This demonstrates resilience, professionalism and commitment to the process. Danielle’s performance today was incredible, and a great reward for the work that she and her coach, Ryan Allen, have done over the past six years.
“This week saw our team of 19 establish 28 new personal bests. In acknowledging the way that COVID has variously impacted each swimmer, we set the achievement of Your Best as the benchmark for every member of the team. In taking the lessons from our chef de mission and Paralympic swimming superstar Stephanie Dixon, we also asked every team member to have no regrets when they finished, to give their all and to enjoy the process. Every one of our swimmers did this and I could not be more proud.”
Full schedule and results: