Australia Fares Well at Can-Am Swimming Open

Tanya Heubner wins six golds for the Aussie delegation.

Matthew Cowdrey Matthew Cowdrey © • Getty Images

The Australian Paralympic swim team fared well at the Can-Am Swimming Open in La Mirada, USA, winning a total of 27 gold, 10 silver and 8 bronze medals.

Tanya Huebner was Australia’s most successful swimmer of the meet, with the London hopeful taking out gold in the 50m freestyle, 200m individual medley, 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke and 50m butterfly. Huebner, who is short statured, is hoping to make her Paralympic debut at the London Paralympics where she is likely to be the only Australian female to contest the S6 class races.

Twenty-year-old Daniel Fox showed why he is currently ranked number two in the world in the S14 200m freestyle for athletes with an intellectual disability, winning gold in the event to cap off a stellar three days of swimming that saw him win another two gold in the 50m and 100m freestyle and bronze in the 100m backstroke.

Fellow S14 swimmers Taylor Corry and Kayla Clarke continued their friendly rivalry, with Corry winning gold in the 50m and 100m freestyle and 50m backstroke, while finishing in second to Clarke, who took out gold in the 100m backstroke and 200m freestyle. Both Corry and Clarke are hoping to make their first Paralympic Team and will be fierce contenders at the Australian Paralympic Trials in March, 2012.

Triple Paralympic gold medallist Rick Pendleton made a spectacular return to the pool in the event that saw him crowned Paralympic champion in Beijing. The 26-year-old made his move in the breaststroke leg of the men’s SM10 200IM but was unable to hold off the fast finishing Canadian Benoit Hout and claimed silver. Pendleton’s return continued with gold in the S10 200m butterfly and 100m breaststroke and bronze in the 100m freestyle.

Dual Paralympian Sam Bramham also made his international return to the pool, cleaning up with gold in the S9 100m freestyle and 50m and 100m butterfly.

The Championships was also the first international meet for eight-time Paralympic gold medallist Matthew Cowdrey and triple Paralympic bronze medallist Jacqui Freney since they were both classified down a class during last week’s classification period.

Formerly classified to race in the S9 class, Cowdrey was reclassified and will now compete in the S8 races, which he appears to have already adapted to, winning gold in the S8 100m breaststroke and posting the fourth fastest time in the event for 2011, with 1:12.85.

Freney also appeared comfortable against her new competitors after she was reclassified from an S8 swimmer to an S7. Freney broke the world record in the S7 400m freestyle in the morning heats then bettered it again in the final to set the new world mark at 4:59.95. She also collected two silvers in the S7 50m and 100m freestyle.

Canadian Valérie Grand’Maison is determined to produce an encore performance to her triple gold medal showing achieved at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing next year in London and took a first step towards that goal on Friday (9 December).

Grand’Maison posted victories in the women’s 50-metre freestyle and 200 individual medley.

‘’This was my first competition for this season (2011-12) and my expectations weren’t that high,’’ said Grand’Maison, 23, who competes in the S13 disability class for visually impaired. ‘’The times were a bit disappointing but this is a good way to launch the year.’’

A total of 176 swimmers from 11 countries took part in the Can-Am Open Swimming Championships hosted by U.S. Paralympics from 8-10 December at the Regional Splash Centre in La Mirada, California.