Simmonds put Arlen eligibility questions to bed


Britain’s Ellie Simmonds on Saturday made doubts about Victoria Arlen’s eligibility immaterial on Saturday, as she retained her S6 400m freestyle crown by smashing the US swim queen’s world record. The 17-year-old, a double gold medallist at the Beijing Olympics four years ago at the age of just 13, proved too strong for her rival in the final 50m, pulling away to touch home in a new global best of 5mins 19.17secs.
Arlen secured silver in 5:20.18 — more than four seconds inside the 5:24.46 benchmark she set in June — with China’s Song Lingling taking bronze. “I’m so pleased to touch and get a world record and a five-second PB. I knew it was going to be so tough leading into it with Victoria being on form and I knew I had to give it my everything and give it my all,” said Simmonds.
“That last 50 hurt, it just killed me. I knew that I had no regrets, I just gave it my all but I’m just so pleased. When I touched I had no energy left. It was one of the toughest races of my life so far.” Arlen, also 17, said she was pleased with the result and said it was a spur for the future.
“I couldn’t have asked for more on my first big meet… It’s motivational, she (Simmonds) did amazing, the better person won. I’m very happy for her. Especially with it being her home turf,” she added.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) had earlier freed the American teenager to race after question marks hung over her eligibility in the race. She was declared “non-eligible” earlier this week due to doubts over her classification.
She was re-instated on appeal but still faced the threat of being stripped of the gold medal had she won.
But the IPC said in a statement that she will “continue to compete in the S6 class, with a review date set for August 2013”.
“Due to the different technicality of stroke required in breaststroke a similar observation in competition will take place in her first SB race,” it added. Categories one to 10 are allocated to swimmers with a physical disability. The lower the number, the more severe the impairment. The letter indicates the stroke.
Arlen was diagnosed with the neurological disorder post-infectious transverse myelitis, which affects the spinal cord, at the age of 12 and was in a vegetative state for two years.
Simmonds was born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism.
Another US swimmer facing classification difficulties was Mallory Weggemann, who saw herself moved up a category as she prepared to swim seven events at the Games.