Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mortimer, Huot Canada's stars

Swift swimmers have won over half the country's gold medals at Games

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LONDON -- Summer Mortimer and Benoit Huot wrapped up their individual races in the pool Thursday after winning almost a third of Canada's medals and over half the country's gold so far at the Paralympic Games.

Mortimer added bronze to a collection that already included two gold and a silver by finishing third in the women's 100-metre freestyle.

The 19-year-old from Ancaster, Ont., will swim the backstroke leg of a medley relay on Friday, but Mortimer is already Canada's most decorated Paralympian in London.

"It still hasn't hit me," she said. "I think other people make a bigger deal out of it than I do just because of my background in sport.

"It's a pretty cool feeling. I'm really grateful for the experience. I'm really happy Canada allowed me to come here and perform for them."

Huot, swimming his third race in as many nights, was fourth in the men's 100 freestyle in what was his final race in London.

The Montreal swimmer caps his fourth Paralympics with a complete set of gold, silver and bronze for a career 19.

Huot, 28, won the 200 individual medley in world-record time on the first day of competition in London. He also took silver in the 400 freestyle and bronze in the 100 backstroke.

"I am leaving London with a big smile on my face," Huot said. "I knew this race was going to be the toughest. It's the one I've trained for the least. Eighty-five per cent of training was focused on the medley."

Mortimer's bronze was Canada's lone medal on Day 9.

With three days of competition remaining, the Canadian team was at 22 medals and assured of a 23rd when the men's wheelchair basketball team defeated host Britain 69-52 in their semifinal. Canada faces defending champion Australia for gold Saturday.

But just four gold tied Canada for 21st, so the team is unlikely to hit its objective of a top-eight finish in the gold-medal count in London.

Patrick Anderson of Fergus, Ont., led Canada with 17 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds in wheelchair basketball. Saturday's final is a rematch of the 2008 gold-medal game in Beijing where Australia prevailed 72-60. Canada won gold in both 2004 and 2000.

The final day of sailing was cancelled due to high winds and medals were awarded based on current position. That hurt Canada's medal chances with two boats in fourth after Wednesday's round.

Paul Tingley of Halifax was the defending champion in the single person keelboat. He finished just off the podium, as did the two-person keelboat team of Victoria's John McRoberts and Stacie Louttit.

"Obviously there's disappointment in coming fourth," McRoberts said. "But to be honest, the other countries sailed better than we did. I'm still proud of where we finished. We ended up being the top Canadian sailing team at both the Olympics and Paralympics."

The men's wheelchair rugby team bounced back from a loss to Australia to beat Belgium 58-50. Canada faces Sweden on Friday with the winner advancing to the semifinals.

Mortimer and Huot earned seven medals between them and own three of Canada's four gold. The fourth came from wheelchair sprinter Michele Stilwell of Nanoose Bay, B.C.

Mortimer set world records en route to winning the 50-metre freestyle and the 200 individual medley. She was second in the 100 backstroke.

Shortly after trying out for Canada's 2008 Olympic swim team, Mortimer suffered catastrophic injuries to her feet and lower shins in a trampoline accident. She hit cement instead of the sponge pit.

Eight screws inserted in her feet and a metal plate in her left foot continually give her pain. Mortimer has clubbed feet and races in the S10 classification, which is for athletes with the least severe physical impairment.

"The way I look at it is I look at the other classifications and other athletes and I see their stories and what they do and I don't think I'm on the same level as them," Mortimer explained. "I'm so in awe by all the athletes, humbled and inspired by each and every one on the team and who I've met around the world.

"Maybe eventually over time I'll start to give myself the same credit, but I look at them and I think they're rock stars."

Mortimer intends to swim again in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

"I would like to say so," she said. "Life has it's ups and downs. You never know what's going to happen. I'll take it year by year. Mentally I'm 100 per cent set on it."

She has to decide if she'll wants surgery to try to relieve the pain in her feet.

"The fact I'm walking is a miracle in itself," she said.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 7, 2012 C10

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