Mallory Weggemann started a streak of gold medals at the Tokyo Paralympics when she won the women’s 100m backstroke S7 on Monday evening.
The 32-year-old swimmer won in a time of 1:21.27, breaking the Paralympic record of 1:22.72 set in 2016 by China’s Ke Liting when she won gold.
In a close finish, all three medalists in Tokyo were below Ke’s record. Eighteen-year-old Canadian Danielle Dorris touched in 1:21.91 for her first Paralympic medal, followed by American Julia Gaffney in 1:22.02. Teammate McKenzie Coan, who won the 400m freestyle on Sunday, was fourth in 1:23.10.
Gaffney holds the world record of 1:19.47, set in 2019. This is her second Paralympic bronze; her first came in the 400m freestyle.
Weggemann, who became paralyzed from the waist down in 2008 following a series of epidural shots to treat shingles, made her Paralympic debut just four years later and won the 50m freestyle S8 at the London 2012 Games, where she was also on the 34-points medley relay team that took bronze.
Four years later, she had a disappointing performance in Rio, placing no higher than fifth in her seven races.
She made her return to the world championships stage in 2019 – after last appearing there in 2010, when she won eight individual golds and a silver – and won both the 50m freestyle and 50 butterfly, showing promise for a return to the Paralympic podium in Tokyo.
Weggemann won her first race of these Games, the 200m individual medley SM7, on Friday, breaking the Paralympic record during her heat. She had finished sixth in that race in London and fifth in Rio.
Her latest gold medal in the 100 backstroke is a marked improvement over her seventh place in 2012 and ninth in 2016, though she was second at the 2010 World Championships.
Weggemann still has the 100m freestyle S7, 50 freestyle S8 and 50 butterfly S7 ahead of her this week.
U.S. swimmers totaled seven medals on Monday, including gold from Hannah Aspden in the 100 backstroke S9. She missed the Paralympic record by four hundredths of a second.
Anastasia Pagonis, who last week was the first American to earn gold at these Games, took bronze in the 200m IM SM11 – a race where the top four finishers were below the world record.
Breaking the world record set by the Netherlands’ Liesette Bruinsma of 2:46.49 in 2019, China’s Ma Jia was golden in 2:42.14, followed by countrywoman Cai Liwen (2:42.91) and Pagonis (2:45.61).
Leanne Smith, a three-time 2019 World champion, won her first Paralympic medal with silver in the 100m freestyle S3. Three-time Paralympian Colleen Young had the best result of her career – a silver – in the 200 IM SM13. U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Marks was third in the 50 butterfly S6 for her second medal of the Games.
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