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Wening Takes Third Gold Medal

October 23, 2000|From Associated Press

SYDNEY, Australia — Swimmer Jason Wening completed a triple at the Paralympics on Sunday, winning his third consecutive gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle by breaking his own world record.

Wening has not been defeated over 400 meters in his category since 1991, when he broke the world record for the first time. He also won Paralympic titles in 1992 and 1996.

The 26-year-old swimmer from Ann Arbor, Mich., is a double amputee below the knee. He also has a partially formed left hand.

He won his third gold in style, avoiding the fate of Olympic swimmers Alex Popov of Russia and Kieren Perkins of Australia, who won silver in Sydney after gold in Barcelona and Atlanta.

"It's fabulous to win three in a row, but I'll grant you it's harder to win at the Olympics," Wening said. "The Paralympics is very immature in comparison--we're only having our 11th Summer Games--but I'll settle for what I've got."

Wening was last off the blocks and had to overcome a two-second deficit at the first turn to catch the early leaders.

"I'm a [second-half] swimmer, so it wasn't that hard," he explained. "I've become used to being last into the water racing against able-bodied swimmers who can dive further and get better turns, so coming from behind is no big deal."

After setting a world mark in qualifying earlier Sunday--the eighth time he had set or beaten the record--he was timed in 4 minutes 42.97 seconds in the final to improve the mark again by almost three seconds.

Juan Francisco Jiminez of Spain placed second in 4:51.0, more than eight seconds behind, with Emil Broendum third in 4:53.43.

Breaking the record twice in one day was an accident, Wening said.

"I thought breaking the record in the morning might have sapped too much energy, but I guess it worked out," he said. "I knew it would take a world record to win it because every time I've won at the Paralympics, the silver medalist has gone under the old record as well."

Wening said he's thinking of quitting while he's ahead and turning his attention to a new career. He is a doctoral candidate in biochemical engineering at the University of Michigan.

Two other U.S. swimmers took gold with world records Sunday--Stephanie Brooks, of Alpharetta, Ga., and Lauren Reynolds, of Basking Ridge, N.J. Both marks came in separate categories of the 400-meter freestyle.

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