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France's El Hannouni claims gold in T12 400-meter event

LONDON -- Multiple Paralympic gold medalist Assia El Hannouni of France on Tuesday won gold in the women's T12 400-meter for blind and visually impaired runners, successfully defending her title for the third time.

The 31-year-old, who has the degenerative eye condition retinitis pigmentosa, clocked 55.39 seconds in the one-lap race at the Olympic Stadium in east London. Ukraine's Oxana Boturchuk took silver and Mexico's Daniela Velasco Maldonado bronze.

“I am very pleased with my win but not my time. There was too much wind in the stadium and I may have done better without it,” she said.

“My focus is now on the gold in the 200m.”

El Hannouni won the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m T12 titles in Athens eight years ago, successfully defended the half-lap and single lap sprints in Beijing and also clinched silver in the 800m and 1,500m.

She is also the reigning world champion at 200m and 400m.

In 2008, she accused then-President Nicolas Sarkozy of ignoring the Paralympic Games, telling French television that para-athletes do not have the “same rights” as their nondisabled counterparts nor the same government support and recognition.

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