MADEIRA, Portugal – Ten months after becoming a Paralympic champion in Tokyo, Danielle Dorris of Moncton captured the first world title of her career on Thursday when she triumphed in the women’s 50-m butterfly S7 on Day 5 of the 2022 World Para Swimming Championships at the Penteada Olympic Swimming Complex.
Tess Routliffe of Caledon, Ont., claimed bronze in the event, while Nicholas Bennett of Parksville, B.C., merited silver in the men’s 200 individual medley S14 to up Canada’s tally to 13 podium finishes with two days to go in the competition, including five gold, four silver and four bronze medals.
In the women’s 50 fly S7, Dorris led from start to finish, just as she did last summer in Tokyo when she set a world record time of 32.99 seconds.
This time around, the 19-year-old New Brunswicker touched the wall in 34.01, a championship mark, to edge Italy’s Giulia Terzi (34.83) and Routliffe, who set a personal best of 35.40.
In her world championship debut, Myriam Soliman of Saint-Hubert, Que., was eighth in 43.75.
All three Canadians train with coach Mike Thompson at Montreal’s High Performance Centre-Quebec.
“It’s crazy to think about. When I first started swimming, I never thought this could be a possibility, but here I am. I’m ecstatic,” said Dorris, who had opened her championships on Wednesday with silver in the 100 backstroke S7, again equalling her result from the last Paralympic Games. “Going into the race, I just knew that if I could see anybody in my peripheral vision I just had to speed up because then I knew someone might be catching me.”
Dorris’ eyes lit up after the race when she realized Routliffe would be joining her on the podium.
“Tess has had a tough year. I couldn’t be more proud of her that she came back this strong. I couldn’t be happier for her.”
Routliffe, a Rio 2016 Paralympian who missed the Tokyo Games with a serious back injury, collected her third medal of Madeira 2022. She won her first career world title on Tuesday in the 100 breaststroke SB7 and took bronze on Sunday in the 200 IM SM7.
“I’m really happy about that swim,” said the 23-year-old. “I came back with a best time and that’s all I can really ask for at this point. We’ve been working a lot on that 50 fly for the IM, and that work paid off.”
In the final of the men’s 200 IM S14, Bennett was fourth at the midway point but moved up to second place thanks to a sensational breaststroke en route to a time of 2:10.23, a mere one hundredth of a second from his own national standard.
Tokyo silver medallist Gabriel Bandeira of Brazil triumphed in 2:07.50, a new world record.
It was Bennett’s second silver medal in his world championship debut following his second-place finish in the 200 free S14 on opening night.
“Of course I was hoping to get a national record, maybe go under 2:10.00, but I can’t be disappointed with a silver medal. I’m very happy,” said the 18-year-old, who also trains at HPC-Quebec and who had placed seventh in Tokyo in the 200 IM.
“Breaststroke just comes as a second nature. You just have to hit it as fast as you can. And then freestyle, you just give everything you got.”
A trio of Canadians finished just off the podium on Day 5, in fourth position, including 19-year-old Worlds debutant Félix Cowan of Brossard, Que., in the men’s 50 freestyle S8, Tokyo Paralympian Shelby Newkirk of Saskatoon in the women’s 50 free S6, and two-time Paralympian Abi Tripp of Kingston, Ont., in the women’s 50 free S8.
In his third final of the week, Cowan set his second personal best of the day, clocking 27.63 to set a new Canadian standard. He was barely untouched at the wall by Poland’s Michal Golus, who took bronze in 27.56.
“I started the competition ranked seventh and finished fourth with a Canadian record and a personal best by almost a second over 50 meters, which is huge. I couldn't be happier,” Cowan said. “Next time, we'll go get the medal.”
Newkirk posted a time of 34.95 in the 50 free S6 to improve five spots from her ninth-place finish in Tokyo. The final was won in world record time by Ukrainian Anna Hontar.
“I’m definitely very happy with my race. I went faster than this morning. It was a very fast race and I just had to focus on what I was doing,” said Newkirk, who claimed her first career world title on Sunday in the 100 back. “I’ve moved up from ninth to fourth in 10 months. I think that’s something to be proud of.”
In the women’s 50 free S8, Tripp finished sixth spots higher than she did at the London 2019 Worlds thanks to a time of 32.87.
“I really couldn’t have asked for more. I’m not known as a sprinter, it’s not one of my focuses. I just wanted to focus on my process and have a good race,” said Tripp. “I’m so happy with it. Now I can work towards maybe getting a medal next year.”
Canadian swimmers also placed eighth in three finals on Thursday, including Worlds rookie Angela Marina of Cambridge, Ont., who set a national record of 2:36.48 in the women’s 200 IM S14
“It’s really emotional because I’ve been struggling with that race for two years and I thought I would never see a best time,” said the Tokyo Paralympian. “It just shows that it’s important to listen to the people who believe in me because eventually it’s going to happen, it just takes time.”
Two-time Paralympian Alec Elliot of Kitchener, Ont., clocked 59.58 in the men’s 100 butterfly S10, while the foursome of Newkirk, James Leroux of Repentigny, Que., 17-year-old Jagdev Gill of Brockville, Ont., and Katarina Roxon of Kippens, N.L., posted a time of 4:43.92 in the mixed 4x100 medley 34-point relay.
Thompson, senior coach of the Canadian delegation in Madeira, said “everyone was punching above their weight today”.
“We had a couple of fourth-place finishes but they’re not fourth-place disappointments. Félix Cowan was pretty much unknown before these championships and all of a sudden he’s coming in fourth. Shelby, ninth in the 50 free in Tokyo, and fourth here. Same with Abi, it’s not necessarily her best event, but fourth in the world is pretty darn good.
“Danielle winning gold, Nick silver and Tess bronze with a best time... We’re doing exceptional work, we’re showing no fear, and we’re showing that we’re trying to build something here and we’re trying to make the world take notice.”
Five other Canadians swam in the preliminaries on Thursday.
Toronto’s Aly Van Wyck-Smart finished ninth in the women’s 50 free S3 (1:21.45); Arianna Hunsicker of Surrey, B.C., placed 10th in the women’s 100 fly S10 (1:19.43); Emma Grace Van Dyk of Port Colborne, Ont., was 10th in the women’s 200 IM SM14 (2:41.93); Matthew Cabraja of Brampton, Ont., ranked 11th in the men’s 100 free S11 (1:09.16); and Zach Zonaof Simcoe, Ont., set a personal best of 29.63 in the men’s 50 free S8 en route to a 12-place finish.
The seven-day competition runs until Saturday, with preliminaries set for 9 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET / 1 a.m. PT) and finals starting at 5 p.m. (noon ET / 9 a.m. PT) daily.
All finals are livestreamed on the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s Facebook page and Paralympic.ca as well as CBC Sports digital platforms: the free CBC Gem streaming service, cbcsports.ca, and the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices.
Full results: https://www.paralympic.org/madeira-2022/schedule-results