Hess stakes claim for immortality

2000-10-29 17:23

Sydney - Mother-of-two Beatrice Hess wants to be ranked as the Ian Thorpe of Paralympic swimming after claiming her sixth gold medal of the Games on Friday.

It was the 38-year-old Frenchwoman's 17th Paralympic gold medal and with it her ninth world record swim of the week.

Just as she has done this week, Hess, a mild cerebral palsy sufferer, was too strong for her rivals winning the S5 50m freestyle in 36.85secs to stamp herself as the swimmer of the meet.

Hess pitched France to seventh on the medals table with 26 golds behind tearaway leaders Australia with two days' competition remaining.

Hess doesn't care for Paralympic comparisons - she's looking at Australian swimming marvel Thorpe, who won three golds at the Olympics in the same pool last month.

"I want to be remembered in Paralympic history - you have Ian Thorpe, why not Beatrice Hess?" she said.

She said she was determined to repeat her feat of winning six golds at the last Atlanta Paralympics to not only prove it was possible but to dedicate her triumphs to her family.

"I wanted to do what I did in Atlanta because everybody says it's impossible, I want to show it's possible if you work hard," she said.

"I give the medals to my children and my brother-in-law who has cancer. You need someone else to think about and to motivate you.

"I was scared that I wouldn't do it, because the standard is so high."

Saturday's relay could deliver Hess a seventh gold, but she said she would be satisfied with six.

"Of course, I want to win, but if I lose, I've still got everything."

She admitted it was harder here than in Atlanta where most of her medals were won in straight out finals and, after 12 races here including heats, she was beginning to struggle physically.

After dominating the S4 category for swimmers with no use of their legs at four Paralympics, Hess was looking forward to getting home to her children, Delphin, 7, and Guillaume, 10.

"I've sacrificed a lot, I want to look after my family first, then I will see if I will go on," she said.

With 17 gold, two silver and a bronze, she could retire after the Games a contented woman.

Cerebral palsy sprinter Tim Sullivan won his fourth gold medal Friday, pushing Australia to their 50th gold medal for the first time at a Paralympics.

The Paralympic landscape has changed markedly with the classification system becoming tighter, competition getting more intense, with fewer medals up for grabs and more athletes are trying to win them.

Sydney's Games feature a record 4 000 competitors from 120 countries.

They include 550 gold medal events, more than Atlanta's 517.

USA have exceeded 50 gold medals five times, but at the Atlanta Games four years ago, 46 golds were enough to give them top nation status, just ahead of Australia's 42.

After Friday's competition, Australia have 50 golds out of a total of 123 medals, ahead of Great Britain (37-107), Spain (34-93), USA (32-93) and China (29-63).

For swimmer Curtis Lovejoy the Paralympics have brought more than two gold medals and four world records.

The 43-year-old American says the Games have brought him redemption.

Lovejoy won his second gold Friday and captured his fourth world record of the Games in the men's S2 50m freestyle for severely disabled athletes, clocking 1m00.36s to lower his own world record from the heats.

But the win was bittersweet for Lovejoy, who in 1996 was shattered to discover he had been omitted from the US team despite posting impressive lead-up results in his home city of Atlanta. - Sapa-AFP