Pascoe scoops first gold in Paralympic pool

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 07:20 31/08/2012
Sophie Pascoe
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GOLDEN GIRL: Sophie Pascoe gives her gold medal a kiss after winning the S10 200m individual medley on day one of the London Paralympics.

Fiona Southorn
Fiona Southorn, who does not have a left hand, thrashed Britain's Crystal Lane to claim bronze.

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Princess of the pool Sophie Pascoe planned to treat herself to a dessert before refocussing on her remaining five events after she defended her S10 200m individual medley Paralympic title with a world record-setting victory in this morning's final in London.

The 19-year-old from Christchurch broke the world record in her heat overnight and then smashed it by a further three seconds in the final as she so easily defended the Paralympic crown she won at Beijing four years ago, blitzing the competition by more than six seconds at the Olympic Park's aquatic complex.

It provided the New Zealand team with a magnificent start to the Games - four athletes were in action on the opening day of competition and they've returned two medals, Pascoe's gold and a bronze to Northland cyclist Fiona Southorn.

''It was quite unexpected,'' Pascoe said of her double world record-breaking achievements today.

''I wanted to leave more in the tank for tonight, I would have been happy with a 27 but a 25, I'm absolutely stoked.

''I did all the hard yards before I came here and that's exactly what I wanted to go out and do. I might treat myself to a dessert tonight."

Winning the country's first gold of the Games was special, she said.

''We came here to do the job. We've got a team of (24) athletes and we're all striving to do personal bests. That's what I came here to do, but to get on the podium is special.''

Pascoe has five events remaining and will get no time to celebrate today's performance - she's up tomorrow in the mad dash that is the 50m freestyle.

Pascoe, a below-the-knee amputee, emerged from the Beijing Games with three gold medals and a silver as the then 15-year-old announced herself on the world stage.

She's been rapidly improving physically and mentally during the past four years and the evidence was there for everyone to see in London today.

She qualified fastest with a world record time of 2:28.73 in her her morning heat, 0.62 seconds quicker than the previous best mark, but then, staggeringly, went more than 3s quicker with a time of 2:25.65 in the final.

Canada's Summer Ashley Mortimer was second, a whopping 6.43s back, with China's Meng Zhang third.

After her heat, where she was rewarded for recent work on the breaststroke leg, Pascoe said: ''I wanted to go out this morning, feel nice and calm and relaxed, and hitting a 28 was perfect.

''I've definitely been working on the breaststroke for the past year, the field for breaststroke is just incredible now so it was something we wanted to work on, along with the fresstyle.''

Earlier, Southorn had the distinction of winning New Zealand's first medal of the London Games with a bronze in the C5 women's individual pursuit.

The 44-year-old, competing in her third games, finished behind gold medal winner Sarah Storey of Britain and Poland's silver medallist, Anna Harkowska.

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Southorn, who does not have a left hand, thrashed Britain's Crystal Lane by just under 7s in the bronze medal ride off for her first Paralympic medal.

"I can't believe it, no, it's incredible, I'm getting faster with age, so bring on the next one," said Southorn.

"I was a bit possessed because I wanted that bronze medal, I went hard out this morning so I didn't have quite as much left but I still gave it my best shot."

The bronze medal matches the one she won at the world champs in Los Angles earlier this year, but having her family in the crowd gave it that extra special feeling. That was down to the aid of Southorn's friend, Storey.

"We needed a UK address to get the extra tickets sent to, so Sarah actually helped me by giving me her address," explained Southorn.

In other New Zealand results, Auckland swimmer Rebecca Dubber, 19, finished fifth in the S7 100m backstroke final after qualifying as fourth fastest in her Paralympics debut, while Taranaki cyclist Nathan Smith, 37, was 23rd in the C1-3 men's kilo.

- Stuff

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