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Friday, October 20, 2000
Walker, Sloan set swimming world records at Paralympic Games

 SYDNEY (CSN) -- Elisabeth Walker of Toronto and Jessica Sloan of Calgary each won gold medals in world record times in their respective women's 200-metre individual medley races Friday to highlight a spectacular start for Canada's swimmers at the 2000 Paralympic Games.

 World champions Benoit Huot of St-Hubert, Que., and Stephanie Dixon of Caledon, Ont., both 16, added gold and silver respectively in their 200 IM races.

 Walker, 23, clocked three minutes and 14.36 seconds to eclipse the previous SM7 category world standard of 3:15.16 set by her rival Kristin Hakonordottir of Iceland at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. It was one of 10 world records set in the pool Friday.

 Margita Prokeinova of Slovakia was a distant second in 3:19.00 and Hakonodottir, the defending champion, third in 3:20.28.

 Walker is competing at her third Paralympics and Friday's win is her first career gold medal at the Games and second medal overall. She was third in the 100 backstroke in Atlanta.

 "I went in the race ranked second so I'm not surprised to win," said Walker, one of five returnees among the 24-member swim team from the 1996 Games. "But I feel ecstatic to get this first gold. The difference with four years ago was mental preparation. I convinced myself I could do it."

 In the women's SM10 200 IM, Sloan now holds five world marks after winning easily in 2:33.64 smashing the 2:38.38 standard set by Sarah Bailey of Britain in 1996. Gemma Dashwood of Australia and Claudia Hengst of Germany were second and third. Anne Polinario of Toronto was sixth in a personal best time.

 Sloan, not related to the last national team swimmer Tara Sloan, is also the world record holder in the 50 and 100 freestyle and 100 and 200 breaststroke.

 "It's a big weight off my shoulders to start off this well," said Sloan, Swimming Canada's female swimmer with a disability of the year in 1999 for winning six gold at the 1998 world championships. "The big thing for me was nerves and keeping my cool. I had done the training."

 In the men' s SM10 200 IM, Huot, 16, was second after the last turn but surged to the finish in 2:17.13, a Paralympic Games record and personal best by four seconds. Maciej Maik of Poland was second in 2:19.72.

 "I've really worked on my breaststroke and butterfly and that was the key for me tonight," said Huot, the world record holder in the 50 freestyle who hopes to one day make the Olympic team.

 In the women's SM9 200 IM, Ricka Stenger of Denmark took the gold in a world record 2:44.89 lowering the 2:45.21 mark set by Winnipeg's Joanne Mucz at the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics. Dixon was second in 2:47.59 and Katerina Coufalova of the Czech Republic third in 2:47.84.

 Other Canadian 200 IM results, Andrew Haley of Dartmouth, N.S., was fourth, freestyle specialist Bob Penner of Agassiz, B.C., seventh and Andrea Cole of Thunder Bay, Ont., was eighth beating her personal best by 10 seconds.

 Canada entered the Games among the strongest swimming nations. At the 1998 world championships, a 10-member Canadian team earned 25 gold medals, 17 in world record time, to finish atop the medal standings. At the 1996 Paralympics Canada won 11 medals including six gold.

 Competition continues Saturday.

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