Canada’s Rivard golden again at Paralympics with 100m freestyle win

Canadian swimmer Aurelie Rivard added to her Paralympic medal collection on Tuesday. (Chris Young/CP)

RIO DI JANIERO, Brazil — Canadian swimmer Aurelie Rivard added another gold to the collection of Paralympic medals she’s carefully stashing out of sight in her suitcase.

The 20-year-old from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., won the 100-metre freestyle on Tuesday, her third medal of the Rio Paralympics, and second gold. Then she planned to tuck it away to savour later.

"Because even if I win, my meet is not done, I still have three races to go," Rivard said. "So I really just want to focus as much as I can on my races and after that, I’m going to think about the medals and what I accomplished.

"Once my meet is over, this is when I’m going to start to realize this happened."

Rivard led virtually from the moment she touched the water, finishing in 59.31 seconds — the only negative on an otherwise brilliant night for the young Canadian.

"I wanted the gold and I got it," she said. "But I’m a little disappointed in my own performance. I own the world record (of 59.17), so of course I wanted to break my own time, wanted to improve myself."

She edged New Zealand rival Sophie Pascoe, who touched second in 59.85 then leaned over the lane rope to wrap the Canadian in a long hug.

Rivard’s was one of two medals on the night for the swim team. Tess Routliffe of Caledon, Ont., captured a silver in the women’s 200 individual medley. Nikita Howarth of New Zealand won the gold in 2:57.29, while Routliffe, who was born with hypochondroplasia dwarfism, finished in 3:02.05.

Rivard, who was born without a left hand, claimed Canada’s first gold medal of the Games when she won the 50 freestyle in a world record time.

She added a silver in the 200 individual medley two nights later.

Her Paralympic performance is reminiscent of Penny Oleksiak, the 16-year-old who won gold in the same event at last month’s Olympics, one of a stunning four-medal performance.

Rivard said the Paralympic team watched Oleksiak’s races while at their pre-Games camp.

"Of course her performances were really inspiring for us… we loved to see her perform like that and win," she said.

If Oleksiak inspired a nation of Canadian children with her performance, Rivard would love to do the same thing.

"If I can just inspire young kids, disabled or not, young athletes just to achieve their goals and really reach for their dreams, I’d really be happy about that," Rivard said.

Canada’s new sport minister Carla Qualtrough, who’s a Paralympic swimming medallist, said presenting Rivard with her first gold medal will be her fondest memory of these Games.

"Talk about full circle," said the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities. "I was on the podium, in swimming. Our first Canadian gold. It was very meaningful for me. And just the crowd… Aurelie is a rock star. Well-deserved, but just to see the flag go up and hear the anthem, it was pretty spectacular."

Routliffe, meanwhile, wasn’t in medal position through the butterfly and backstroke, but roared back with her strong breaststroke and freestyle.

"I was a little bit behind there, but I just love racing and I put my heart into it, and gave it everything I had," she said.

Sarah Mehain of Vernon, B.C., was fifth in the 200 IM, her last of five races in Rio, and was beaming when she passed by reporters.

"I’m very proud to be a Paralympian," said Mehain, who has hemiplegia, meaning the right side of her body is weaker than her left. "It just gives me the shivers to see everybody competing here, everybody has a different story, they’ve overcome so many different things in their lives, and now we’re all here together, celebrating diversity and achievements in sport. It’s really incredible."

Both Canadian goalball teams advanced to quarter-finals after completing round-robin play.

Charlottetown’s Amy Burk scored all six Canadian goals in a 6-0 win over Australia on the women’s side. Canada ends the preliminary round at 2-2 and will face the U.S. on Wednesday.

The men’s team lost 6-3 to Sweden to finish at 1-3 in round robin and will play Lithuania on Wednesday.

The sailing competition was disrupted by wind and heat delays postponing some races. However, two Canadian crews are off to fine starts after their races on Monday and Tuesday.

John McRoberts and Jackie Gay of Victoria sit second in the Skud 18 while Halifax’s Paul Tingley, Saskatoon’s Logan Campbell and Montreal’s Scott Lutes are third in the Sonar.

Canada’s women’s wheelchair basketball team was left fighting back tears after a 78-60 quarter-final loss to the Netherlands that dashed their dreams of a medal. It will be the first time since 1988 that neither the women nor the men’s squad has climbed the medal podium.

Canada will play China for fifth place.

In track and field, blind runner Jason Dunkerley and his guide Josh Karanja, both of Ottawa, ran to fifth in the men’s 1,500. And wheelchair racer Diane Roy of Sherbrooke, Que., was sixth in the women’s 1,500 final.

"I am very happy with placing sixth," said Roy. "I knew that to be in the top four would be very difficult. It would have taken a mistake from the lead group. I managed my race very well and overall."

In shooting, Doug Blessin of Tri-City, B.C., posted a sixth-place finish in the mixed 10-metre air rifle in prone position.

Austin Smeenk of Oakville, Ont., reached a second final at the Games, ranking sixth in men’s T34 800-metre heats.

Table tennis player Stephanie Chan of Richmond, B.C., lost the bronze-medal match in the women’s class 7 to Seong-Ok Kim of South Korea 12-14, 11-7, 11-7, 11-8. Chan was the first Canadian to play for a medal at the modern Paralympic Games in table tennis.

Canada has 14 medals, including four gold and eight silver, after six days of competition and stands 14th in the country standings.

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