Canadian Para swimmers stoked with medal haul at world championships

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom — Canada’s Para swimming team believes it delivered a powerful message that it will be a force to reckoned at next year’s Paralympic Games by turning in its strongest performance in more than 15 years at the 2023 Manchester Para Swimming World Championships.

Katarina Roxon and Tess Routliffe won bronze medals on Sunday’s final day of competition to cap the weeklong championships that attracted 70 countries.

The nine gold medals this past week were the most for Canada since 10 at the 2006 worlds in Durban, South Africa (which had 49 countries) and the 19 medals overall were the highest total since 21 in Eindhoven, the Netherlands in 2010 (53 nations). The Canadians added four silver and six bronze along with its nine wins this week.

Roxon, who made her worlds debut on that 2006 team in Durban at age 13, placed third in the women’s SB9 100-metre breaststroke in 1:25.25. Anastasiya Dmytriv of Spain won the gold in 1:20.01 and Ellen Keane of Ireland was second in 1:21.43.

‘’I really pushed and fixed a couple of things up,’’ said the 30-year-old Roxon, 30, the 2016 Paralympic champion in the event. ‘’One thing I remembered tonight was to have fun with it, just think of the technique, don’t worry about the placings and time. Everything will fall into place.’’

Routliffe collected her fourth medal of the competition placing third in the women’s S7 100 freestyle in 1:14.74. Morgan Stickney of the U.S. took the gold in 1:09.29 and Sara Vargas Blanco of Colombia was second in 1:12.15.

“My coach and I recently put the 100 free on my list of races,’’ said Routliffe, 24, also with gold in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke and silver in the 50 butterfly this week.

“We’ve been working on it and really happy with where we are at. It’s a fun race. These whole worlds make me really excited for Paris (2024 Paralympic Games).’’

Sabrina Duchesne of St-Augustin, Que., a bronze medallist in the 400 freestyle, was fifth in 1:15.25.

Two Canadians were in the women’s S10 100 backstroke final. National team rookie Katie Cosgriffe of Oakville, Ont., 17, was fifth in 1:11.64 and Aurélie Rivard of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., was sixth in 1:11.68.

Rivard added to her legendary status this week with victories in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle. She now has 19 career world championship medals.

‘’I’m so proud of our team right now,’’ said the 27-year-old Rivard, a law student at Université Laval in Quebec City. ‘’They really stepped up and I’m so happy to have a young S10 to racer in Katie with me.

“I’m really impressed and confident with the team heading into Paris and get that medal count higher than Tokyo.’’ Canada was seventh in the mixed 4X100 freestyle relay with Philippe Vachon of Blainville, Que., Zach Zona of Waterford, Ont., Rivard and Routliffe.

“First and foremost, I would like to express the utmost pride and admiration I have for this team,’’ said Canada’s head coach Mike Thompson.

‘’Their performance at the World Championships wasn’t merely about the times in the pool, but more about the camaraderie, unity and resilience they exhibited. It’s been a transformative journey, marked not just by remarkable performances but also by profound personal growth.

“These athletes have shattered expectations, forming bonds stronger than we could have ever anticipated, transforming into something more than a collection of swimmers.”

Canada’s team leader Wayne Lomas says it was a total team effort.

“We challenged the team to be the best they are capable of being, take strength from the team, enjoy their time together and take away valuable lessons on the journey to Paris. In each front, they have succeeded.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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